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Two National Crime Agency officers who tackled armed suspects fleeing an illegal firearms factory have been awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.

The award is granted for bravery entailing risk to life that merits national recognition, and NCA officers Joel Andrews and Glenn Carr receive the honour for taking action likely to have prevented death or serious injury.

On 18 August 2018, Joel and Glenn were deployed on an NCA investigation into suspects known to have access to guns and histories of violence.

As a surveillance team watched the two main suspects enter an industrial unit in Hailsham, east Sussex, they heard two loud bangs, leading armed officers to move in to make arrests, since it was assessed that both were likely to be in the possession of firearms.

Both suspects attempted to escape the scene, each running in a different direction. 

Joel, who was on his first ever deployment as an armed officer, pursued one of them towards a cul-de-sac containing business units, and activated his TASER to bring the suspect to the ground, where he was detained.

The subject was subsequently found to have a gun and ammunition; CCTV showing him removing the firearm from the waistband of his shorts during the pursuit.

Joel recalls: “As soon as I confronted him it was clear from his body language that he intended to run. The decision to pursue was instinctive and it's something we train for regularly.

“I was aware that the subject was more than likely armed, but as firearms officers it's our job to put ourselves between the public and an armed threat. 

“This was an industrial estate on a Saturday afternoon and one of my concerns was an accidental confrontation between the subject and a member of the public who might have been visiting the units nearby.”

As the second suspect fled from pursuing officers, Glenn, an armed motorbike surveillance officer, moved to block his path.

The last officer between the man and a possible escape, and without time to access his firearm or TASER, Glenn put out his right leg. This brought down the suspect, who was immediately arrested, and found to be in possession of a gun.

Glenn says: “As a motorcyclist, I had a specific role as more or less the last line of defence.

“I saw there was a pathway that was an escape route, even if that was unlikely. So I made a conscious decision to cover it. That unlikely possibility turned into reality.

“The whole thing didn’t take more than ten seconds. I saw that my colleagues were carrying lots of kit, while the subject was in trainers and summer clothing, so I considered that if he gets past me he’s escaped, and then he’s potentially into contact with members of the public where anything can happen.

“So I thought ‘what can I do to stop him but not cause major harm’, and that was try to kick him to take him off balance.

Glenn’s actions came at a personal cost to him, as the impact of tripping the suspect caused him to fall from his motorcycle; breaking his leg. 

“I was moving at 10-15 mph on the bike, and the impact of hitting his leg at that speed was what broke mine. The bike fell to the left and I went right.

“As a firearms officer, you’re expected to go the extra mile to meet the threat that’s facing you. However, it’s fair to say that kicking someone from a motorbike isn’t part of your training!”

It was three months before Glenn was able to walk properly again.

The NCA investigation into the suspected firearms factory uncovered the industrial scale criminality taking place at the site. Fifteen viable firearms were seized, with a further 122 firearms that were in the process of being manufactured also recovered.

Two men were later convicted of conspiring to supply firearms and were sentenced to a combined 29 years and six months in prison.

NCA Director General, Dame Lynne Owens, said:

“This was a unique operation; the first time any UK law enforcement agency had found an illegal gun factory of this type. In a dangerous situation Glenn and Joel put their own lives at risk to ensure these suspects were arrested and the public protected.

“Our investigations later revealed that one of the firearms linked to the factory was used in an attempted murder, so it is clear the weapons being produced at the site could have caused significant further harm in criminal circulation. The courage and quick-thinking of Glenn and Joel fully merits the national recognition conferred by the Queen’s Award for Bravery. They exemplify the determination of NCA officers to selflessly confront the threat from serious and organised crime.”

On hearing of his award, Glenn said:

“I am delighted to receive an award of such high merit. Law enforcement colleagues throughout this country place themselves in danger on a regular basis to protect others from harm so to be recognised for this is very humbling. I am proud to be the recipient.”

Responding to news of his award, Joel added:

“I was completely bowled over when I received my letter and it was only after reading it twice that the significance of the award became clear to me.

“I am truly pleased to even be considered alongside some of the previous recipients. My wife is very proud but I still haven’t told the wider family so this will hopefully be a nice surprise for them.

“I am also grateful for the opportunity to highlight the work of my NCA colleagues in successfully shutting down an illegal firearms factory that presented a huge risk to the public.”