The newly launched scheme from Leicestershire Police, which urges shooters to notify voluntarily the police every time they go out shooting (Shooters dismiss police plan, News, 30 April) has divided opinion and angered many law-abiding shooters. BASC members have voiced their concerns via email and by phone, and weve represented those views to the police and the media. So is this voluntary notification scheme a good idea? Does BASC support it? To answer these questions and set the record straight, we must first consider the issue regarding lamping.
Lamping as we all know is a safe and effective method of controlling pest species. Because shooting at night can be more dangerous than in daylight, BASC advises shooters to take extra precautions. These include a recommendation for shooters to inform their local police when, where and at what time theyre going lamping. The reason we do this is that strange lights and gunshots at night can lead to calls to police stations. We believe that letting the police know where youre shooting at night can save considerable aggravation and inconvenience on all sides. However, BASC has never supported a blanket shooting notification scheme. It therefore came as quite a shock to me when I was told by a member of Leicestershire Polices press relations team that they thought BASC was backing such an idea.
Id phoned Leicestershire Police after hearing from Shooting Times that the force was on the verge of launching a scheme. I wondered why, as Britains largest shooting organisation, BASC had not been formally invited to take part. I was also concerned that it had not been consulted prior to the public launch despite the fact that it represents thousands of shooters in the Midlands.
The police press officer told me that BASC had been invited to the launch via email. The email address used was out of date, however. The officer also said BASC staff members had attended various meetings where the scheme had been discussed. BASC staff told me that they had attended meetings, but that a fully formed scheme had never been discussed and they were not notified that one was about to be launched.
Given the nature of what was being proposed, BASC asked Leicestershire Police if it would delay the launch to allow detailed discussion. A 45-minute phone conversation took place between BASC chief executive John Swift and a senior Leicestershire police officer. The police inspector was unable to satisfy BASC that the scheme had been properly worked out. John Swift made it clear that BASC would be expected to offer its members guidance.
The police refused further consultation and insisted on going ahead with the launch. BASC was left with no option but to criticise an ill-thought-out and poorly resourced scheme, which will deliver no perceivable gain to our members.
BASC and Leicestershire Police have had an excellent working relationship for many years, so what went wrong? The short answer is a breakdown in communications.
Leicestershire Police say it has a duty of care to investigate all sightings of people with guns and that it has to send armed officers to investigate all such incidents. The police claims that if it had widespread voluntary notification it would reduce the need to deploy armed response units, but it was unable to offer a guarantee that it would be able to cope with the likely volume of calls. Moreover, it could not guarantee that even after a shooter called in his lawful activity would not be disturbed by an armed response unit.
BASC was also concerned that agreeing to this level of police control of lawful shooting could lead to a voluntary scheme becoming a compulsory one, not only in one county but across the UK. Why should the shooting community be treated like criminals? The launch of the Leicestershire scheme, inserted into a routine meeting with local shooters, was something of a damp squib. There was no local media coverage and no shooting press present. The 50 shooters who attended were asked to put up their hands to demonstrate support. The police then claimed that this represented the general approval
of the 10,000-plus Leicestershire shooters.
The good news is that a meeting has been arranged between BASC and Leicestershire Police. It is our hope that by starting again, where the police should have begun, a constructive solution can be found.
Dave Harper is BASCs head of press relations.