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Fatal shootings of police officers in the UK – a tragic history

Messages of shock and condolence were sent to the family, friends and colleagues of the police officer shot and killed in the early hours of Friday morning.

Sgt Matiu Ratana became the 52nd British officer since World War II to be fatally shot and the 16th victim from the Metropolitan Police over the past 75 years.

Before this killing, 75 officers have been lethally shot since the turn of the 20th Century.

The last occasion was in 2012 with the double murder of PC Nicola Hughes and PC Fiona Bone as they responded to a burglary in Greater Manchester.

However, firearms incidents are reasonably rare in the UK as the country has one of the tightest control measures in the world. Since WWII, three major pieces of gun control legislation have been passed, in 1968, 1988 and 1997. The latter two were in response to the Hungerford and Dunblane massacres.

Over time, the frequency of police being fatally shot has declined with fewer officer killed in the past three decades (90s, 00s, 10s) combined, than in the 1980s.

In terms of making the streets safer for police officers, the immediate impact of the legislation is mixed, with the biggest change seen after the 1988 Act, introduced following the shooting in Hungerford, Berkshire, of 16 people. The Act ensured semi-automatic rifles, one of the weapons used by the shooter, were outlawed.

Director of Action on Armed Violence, Iain Overton, said: “Ultimately, the data shows that officers are much less likely to be shot than they were a few decades ago. Obviously, the death of Sgt Ratana is an awful tragedy. But I hope we don’t see his death being used to justify the arming of more and more police officers as this could create an arms race between police and criminals and, human error aside, this can only lead to more violence.”

Source: Police Roll of Honour