A former police firearms licensing manager has expressed concerns that budget cuts across the UK?s constabularies could seriously compromise the efficiency and safety of firearms policing.

Former firearms licensing manager with Essex Police Mick Fidgeon whose post was axed last week as part of a cost cutting drive told Shooting Times: ?The problem is that Essex police alone is having to make cuts of £48million and firearms officers who are mostly civilians are often not classed as frontline operational staff by people who don?t understand what they do and think therefore that they are expendable. For this reason we foresee drastic cuts to firearms teams across the country.

?Until last week Essex Police was considering cutting a third of its firearms licensing team including four enquiry officers and two clerks. My post as team manager has already been cut. The force is still considering scrapping face to face interviews for some renewals. If the slack is taken up by untrained police officers, shooters will feel the impact. Firearms law is very complex and an understanding of gameshooting and regular contact with shooters is vital in dealing with both applications and any incidents that occur.?

Firearms officers effectively act as legal advisors to police officers for multiple aspects of firearms law. It is feared that without their expertise, licence holders are more likely to fall foul of ignorance on the part of the authorities. There is also the issue of public safety. Concerns have been raised that if resources are taken out of the process of vetting firearms applicants it risks unsuitable people being granted certificates.

The rest of this article appears in 6th April issue of Shooting Times.

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