GUN crime hit a record high in West Midlands during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.

Lockdowns and other coronavirus restrictions contributed to gun crime dropping nationally in the year to March, but police forces across England and Wales still logged thousands of offences.

Home Office figures show West Midlands Police recorded 721 crimes involving firearms that year – and has dealt with 9,993 since police force level records began in 2007-08.

The National Police Chiefs' Council said there is more work to be done nationally to stop those intent on carrying weapons and prevent the "terrible consequences" of gun crime.

There were 25 firearm offences for every 100,000 people in the West Midlands policing area in 2020-21 – up from 24 the year before and the highest rate in England and Wales.

The data covers crimes involving lethal firearms like shotguns and handguns and non-lethal weapons such as stun guns, but excludes offences involving air weapons.

It shows weapons were discharged or fired 270 times during incidents recorded by West Midlands Police last year.

Nationally, more than 1,000 people were injured and dozens died as a result of gun crime in 2020-21, when forces in England and Wales tackled 5,700 firearms offences.

Robberies and violent attacks made up more than half of all gun crimes, with offences most common on the streets.

The largest proportion of crimes involved handguns, while weapons were fired in more than half of the incidents recorded. Victims were most likely to be in their 20s.

A Government spokesman said it was recruiting 20,000 extra police officers and had given forces greater powers to stop and search, in an effort to tackle the issue and remove dangerous weapons from the streets.

He said the country had some of the toughest gun controls in the world and that firearms offences made up a small proportion of recorded crime, adding: "We know that everyone in Britain deserves safe streets, homes and communities."

Gun crime dropped nationally by 14 per cent compared to 2019-20 and has fallen significantly over 13 years – last year, it was 42 per cent lower than in 2007-08.

West Midlands Police logged 974 gun crimes in 2007-08, 26 per cent more than last year and the equivalent of 37 in every 100,000 people.

A spokesman for the NPCC said any loss of life or injury from offensive weapons is "one too many", adding: "These figures reflect important on-going work by police and our partners to reduce the number of deaths, injuries and other serious incidents due to armed criminality."