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Fireworks could have killed these children. Is it ban time?; LEADER: A series of incidents in the run-up to Bonfire Night next week has already sparked the annual debate surrounding fireworks, as JANET TANSLEY reports.

Byline: JANET TANSLEY

JOAN Gordon doesn't hesitate in her call for an end to rockets and roman candles as she cuddles the grandchildren who are lucky to be alive.

Their home was attacked by a thug who threw a firework through the window of their Moreton home just days ago.

The fire which followed spread rapidly, virtually gutting the family home.

Thankfully Katie Gordon, 13, and her sister Annalise, 11, were next door with their grandmother and grandfather who raised the alarm after hearing the glass shatter and seeing flames leaping up the outside walls.

"But the scum who threw the firework didn't know that people were out, " says Joan.

"I can't get myself away from the thought that they could have been killed. I'm on edge, " she adds.

"It was only because their mum was out that the girls were here with us."

Joan says she has never liked fireworks because of the damage they can cause: "Whatever the controls, children still manage to get hold of them so you have to wonder whether people are selling them to the under-aged.

"My only allowance would be for organised bonfires and displays, if the laws are tightened to ensure that only people involved in those are able to get access to fireworks."

The fireworks debate is fuelled by fear, knowledge of the injuries which can be caused and the sensitivity to world events.

We asked: Should they be banned?

Liverpool City Council leader (and headmaster) Mike Storey.

"I couldn't agree more with fireworks being banned from open sale.

"I have seen the horrific injuries they cause to people and I have seen yobs aim rockets at five-yearold children.

"We hear year after year of elderly and vulnerable people being scared to leave their homes in the run-up to Bonfire Night because of thugs.

"It's a charter for appalling behaviour and a disgrace. Fireworks should be confined to organised and licensed displays; that way everyone can enjoy them safely and no-one need live in fear of attacks, or suffer the injuries which fireworks can inflict."

Roger Vincent - RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents):

"It's up to the government if they feel the necessity for a ban at the present time. We have not felt that.

"If you try to ban fireworks you create a worse safety situation.

They have already been sent out so you have the problem transporting them back where they came from.

"Also, if you try to ban something as traditional as this, people will continue to want to use them and these can lead to the kitchen sink chemist syndrome with people making their own, resulting in a lot worse injuries.

"Or they are smuggled in from rogue dealers abroad who sell far more dangerous fireworks."

He argues that policing a ban is 'ridiculous': "Once the firework has gone off, any evidence is destroyed. It's not practical.

"It's up to the individual but we would say use them as safely as possible. Follow the firework code."

He says that of the 972 injuries last year - and there were two deaths for the first time in some time - 500 involved children under the age of 16: "Even though the law states that they shouldn't be sold to under 18s, and those who do risk a pounds 5,000 fine and a six-month prison sentence.

"More than 100 injuries involved the use of sparklers which people forget burn with the intensity of a blow torch and still let young children hold them; 279 were casual incidents in the streets caused by the hooligan element and 421 were at family or private parties.

"There were 119 at public displays which, when you consider how many thousands go to them, is minimal. Clearly, as adults, we need to be more responsible."

Professor John Ashton, North West Regional Director of Public Health.

"People are safer attending properly supervised fireworks displays.

"Over the next few days several people are going to lose their eyes, and lots more will be injured.

"It is senseless that more is not done to control these types of injuries which cause so much suffering and take up valuable NHS resources.

"As far as I can see, the main problem is with law enforcement.

"You see kids as young as eight letting off fireworks in the streets and, seemingly, they are allowed to get away with it."

Ron Rapley, technical director of Standard Fireworks.

"My own mother is 86 and I have a lot of empathy when I hear stories about hooligans frightening the elderly by misusing fireworks.

"But, if they cannot buy fireworks, then some people will either make them themselves or get them from abroad and they will be less safe.

"More people are injured playing netball or in DIY accidents than by fireworks.

"We have an agreement that shops can start selling and advertising fireworks three weeks before November 5 and that works well.

"It is up to the police and Trading Standards to make sure the laws are upheld."

Station Officer Mike Harris, Merseyside Fire Brigade.

"The safest place to see fireworks is at an organised display.

"When put in the wrong hands, they can become lethal weapons.

"My personal opinion - and I must stress it is personal - is that enough is enough and it's time to ban open access to fireworks.

"I say that after year upon year of seeing the damage and the injuries they cause, and for the elderly folk who sit petrified in their homes as the rockets and bangers whizz by outside."

CAPTION(S):

LUCKY TO BE ALIVE: Katie Gordon, 13, and her sister Annalise, 11, with their grandmother Joan Gordon Picture: FRAZER BIRD
COPYRIGHT 2001 MGN Ltd.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Leader
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 31, 2001
Words:946
Previous Article:Back from the brink; ECHO COMMENT.
Next Article:Police in Lynsey inquiry praised.


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