Armed police in Gwent were called to fewer incidents last year, new figures show.

The force's armed officers have not discharged their weapons at all in the last 15 years.

It comes amid an increase in the number of armed incidents in England and Wales.

Human rights organisation Liberty said the use of guns in the UK should be "rolled back" to protect the most marginalised and "overpoliced" communities, while one senior police officer praised the "professionalism" of armed officers.

In the year to March 2023 Gwent Police sent armed officers to 247 operations, fewer than the year before, when there were 263.

The Covid pandemic had a significant impact on crime across the country, with a drop in the number of armed incidents. In the year to March 2020, the last full year before lockdown took effect, there were 393 operations in Gwent.

Nationally there were 18,395 firearms operations in the year ending March 31 – a slight increase on the previous year, when there were 18,257.

Of these incidents, 10 of them saw police firearms intentionally fired, six more than in the year ending March 2022.

The highest numbers of police firearms operations per 100,000 population were in the West Midlands, Cleveland and South Wales police force areas.

The police force areas with the lowest number per 100,000 were Essex, Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall and Cumbria.

Emmanuelle Andrews, policy and campaigns manager at human rights charity Liberty said the UK was heading "in the opposite direction" on dangerous policing.

She said: "Instead of increasing the use of guns and handing the police new powers to use different weapons, we need to see use rolled back.

"The Government should invest in solutions our communities really need – like funding for youth services, better access to mental health help, and action on poverty, so that we get to the root cause of the social issues policing so often responds to."

The figures also reveal a slight decline in the number of Gwent Police officers trained to use firearms.

This year there were 43, compared to 44 the year before.

Nationally there were a total of 6,651 armed officers as of March 2023, a slight decline on the previous year, when there were 6,677.

Chief Constable Simon Chesterman, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for armed policing, said he was proud firearms were only discharged 10 times.

He added: "A mark of the quality of training that armed officers receive is how infrequently they have to use their weapons, and it is a testament to the professionalism of our armed officers that only 0.05% of armed deployments end with a firearm actually being discharged."

A spokesperson for the Home Office said it was hard to make direct comparisons with rates during the pandemic, but the number of incidents where firearms were intentionally discharged "remains very low".

They added: "The use of firearms by the police should always be a last resort, considered only where there is a serious risk to public or police safety.

"Deadly force continues to be used very rarely by police in this country. This is testament to the training, skill and judgement of firearms officers and commanders."