Category Archives: Local News

Appeal to trace family of local man John Birks

Her Majesty’s Coroner’s Office in Stoke-on-Trent is appealing for help to trace the family of a man who has died. 

John Birks, aged 60, of Ramage Grove, Normacot, Stoke on Trent, was found dead on 11 July 2019 at his home address. His death is not being treated as suspicious. 

HM Coroner for Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire needs to trace Mr Birks’ next of kin. 

Any family members of Mr Birks, or anyone who can provide information as to possible relatives, please contact Stoke on Trent Coroner’s Office on 01782 234793. 

Story via Staffordshire Police

National Firearms Surrender Campaign Runs Again This Summer

Staffordshire Police is appealing for the public to hand over any unwanted firearms as part of a national two week surrender of firearms and ammunition, starting on Saturday 20 July 2019.

Many firearms are held in innocence and ignorance of their illegality or are overlooked and forgotten in people’s homes. Others are acquired and distributed by criminal networks to threaten or harm their local communities. The surrender gives the opportunity to dispose of a firearm or ammunition by simply taking it to a local designated police station and handing it in.

The National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) co-ordinated the last national firearms surrender which took place in November 2017 and was deemed a big success with thousands of potentially lethal items prevented from getting into criminal hands.

This summer’s campaign has a particular focus on firearms, stun gun type devices and pepper sprays. Police want to highlight the danger of these items and remind people they are illegal in this country and could lead to a prison sentence for anyone caught in possession.

Assistant Chief Constable at Staffordshire Police, Emma Barnett said: “We are keen to get as many people as possible to hand in unwanted firearms and ammunition – every weapon off the street is one less that can be used to harm or threaten our communities.

“The three front counters at Cannock, Burton and Longton police stations will receive any surrendered firearms between 9-5pm, Monday-Friday. During these hours there will also be officers assigned to collect any firearms that people have reported for surrender.

“Outside of these hours people wanting to surrender firearms, or those who are unable or unwilling to travel to police stations, will be able to contact us via 101 or through the Digital 101 service for an officer to arrange collection.”

During the last surrender, over 300 firearms were handed in across Staffordshire.

Staffordshire Commissioner for Police, Fire and Rescue and Crime, Matthew Ellis welcomed the Firearms Surrender: “Gun crime continues to blight some communities across parts of the UK. Whilst Staffordshire doesn’t have the same scale of problem, we must all do what we can to ensure it stays that way. Eradicating illegally held firearms must be the ambition here and I encourage all communities, and individuals, to make the police aware of any concerns in relation to weapons as a matter of urgency.”

Assistant Chief Constable Helen McMillan, National Police Chief’s Council lead for Criminal Use of Firearms, said: “The last national firearms surrender was a success and potentially helped save lives. With the Government’s Serious Violence Strategy underway, we feel it is the right time to ask police forces to run another two week campaign to collect unwanted guns and ammunition. Each firearm we retrieve has the potential to save a life so do the right thing and surrender your weapon.

“We also want to highlight that stun guns and similar devices are illegal in the UK and may not be brought in from abroad. They may be legal in some other countries but if you are caught with one here you could be prosecuted with possession of a firearm and be put behind bars. This summer’s surrender is a good opportunity to hand in these type of devices.

“Those people in the UK who order illegal guns or component parts using internet sales sites will also be targeted by police this summer. If you have ordered items from abroad hand them in before we come knocking at your door.”

The surrender initiative is being co-ordinated by the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS). The surrender will run for two weeks from Saturday 20 July to Sunday 4 August 2019. 

During the campaign period, those handing over firearms will not face prosecution for the illegal possession – at the point of surrender – and can remain anonymous if they choose to.

Guns and ammunition can be surrendered at designated police stations across the UK but anyone handing in a firearm, ammunition or any other weapon during the surrender is advised to check the opening times of their local station in advance by calling 101 or visiting their local force website. Some forces will arrange collection from a home address.

Crime figures issued by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that crimes involving firearms in England & Wales (not just discharges) decreased by 2% to 6,525 offences. This is for year ending Dec 2018 compared with the previous year (6641 offences). This follows a period of increased gun crime. 

Illegal possession of a firearm can mean five years behind bars and if you are found guilty of possession with intent to supply that can lead to a life sentence. 

During the last national firearms surrender in 2017 more than 9,500 items were handed in to police. These included hand guns, rifles, shotguns, so-called ‘antique’ (obsolete calibre) guns and imitation firearms, as well as ammunition. Shotguns were the most popular firearms handed in and accounted for 59% of the total surrendered. 

Most of the items handed in were destroyed but a few unusual items were retained for the National Ballistics Intelligence Service firearms reference collection or museums.  Some items were discovered in lofts or garden sheds; perhaps family heirlooms or ‘trophies’ of war.

NABIS and police forces across the UK are working with partners such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), National Crime Agency (NCA) and Border Force to ensure the surrender campaign is a success. 

The Home Office has also lent its support to the campaign, which ties in with the important work going on as part of the Serious Violence Strategy to tackle crimes such as knife crime and gun offences.

Police force representatives and other partners attended a conference in Birmingham last month (June 2019) to discuss the surrender initiative and share learning. 

If you know of anyone involved with illegal firearms call police on 101 or independent charity Crimestoppers (anonymously) on 0800 555 111. Advice and support for young people is available @fearlessORG www.fearlessorg

If you are a licensed firearm holder who wants advice please contact your local force. For more information about NABIS visit www.nabis.police.uk or follow us on Twitter @NABIS_UK  #gunsurrender

For more information about the Home Office Serious Violence Strategy visit https://homeofficemedia.blog.gov.uk/2019/03/03/fact-sheet-government-action-to-tackle-violent-crime/

Police Scotland are not taking part in this surrender as they ran one in summer 2018.

Apprentices to be recognised at graduation

Apprentices from across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are invited to attend a special graduation ceremony to celebrate their achievements.

Apprentices from over 15 sectors, from Accounting to Mechanical Engineering will come together with their family and friends for the celebration at the County Showground in Stafford on Wednesday 17 July.

Now in their fifth year, the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Apprenticeship Graduation Awards help highlight the quality and range of Advanced and Higher apprentices and their contribution to the local economy.

Grace Holford is one apprentice looking forward to the graduation ceremony. The 26-year-old is a Level 3 accountancy apprentice with Staffordshire County Council. Grace said:

“Apprenticeships are really brilliant and offer an alternative route to studying.

“Achieving a high standard qualification takes a lot of hard work and dedication so having a graduation ceremony is a fantastic way to celebrate people’s efforts and achievements. Gaining a qualification through an apprenticeship should be celebrated the same as if you went to university to study. I’m really looking forward to the graduation.”

Philip White, Cabinet Member for Learning and Employability at Staffordshire County Council said,

“Once again we’re delighted to be hosting our apprenticeship graduation ceremony, which will celebrate the enormous success and achievement of all our Higher and Advanced apprentices.

“Apprentices remain key to growing our economy and it’s vital we have a good supply of talented workers with the skills that our employers need. It’s also important that we promote the benefits of apprenticeships to encourage others to aspire and over the years our ceremonies have done just that.”

Alun Rogers, deputy chairman of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Local Enterprise Partnership added:

“Apprenticeships give people the opportunity to start their chosen career and to get on the ladder in industry with established businesses.

“They are also important for businesses as they help to build a skilled and talented workforce.

“In Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire we have made great progress in recent years by increasing the number of apprentices but we want to see further growth and ensure businesses are aware of the value of apprenticeship programmes.

“Developing a skilled workforce will be an integral part of our Local Industrial Strategy and will include apprenticeship support.

“Our business support apprenticeship helpline also continues to provide employers across the county with the advice they need to realise the benefits of taking on an apprentice.”

Apprentices continue to play a key role in strengthening the Staffordshire economy with around 7,000 completing an apprenticeship over the past 18 months.

Higher Apprenticeships are available at a range of levels, from the equivalent of a foundation degree to a bachelor’s degree and even master’s degree level in some sectors. More of these specialised and highly-skilled Apprenticeships are being offered each year, giving individuals the chance to continue their professional development and fully realise their potential.

Apprentices that have completed their Apprenticeship can book a place at the event at www.GraduationCeremony.co.uk