Shooting organisations are calling for local police constabularies to be better educated about fieldsports and firearms law. The call follows two recent incidents in which legitimate pigeon shooters were wrongly targeted and their guns seized.
The way I was treated by the police was utterly humilating, shooter Kenneth Wilson told Shooting Times. Mr Wilson was targeted by police while he was shooting pigeon on farmland in Wiltshire on 13 July.
The field in which we had permission to shoot has a 300ft crop circle and is regularly visited by crop circle fanatics. On that particular day, two Norwegian crop circle enthusiasts turned up and started trespassing on the field to catch a glimpse of the circle. The next thing I knew, an armed response unit turned up in a helicopter followed by three police cars and they arrested me after one of the trespassers called the police stating that guns were being used in the field.
All charges against Mr Wilson were eventually dropped and his seized guns were returned. The police dealt with this situation appallingly. It should have been resolved there and then in the field. There is nothing illegal about what I did that day. I have been shooting for more than 30 years and comply with firearms law and all safety practices. Maybe it is time the police set about understanding legitimate shooters rights.
Dale Barnard, from Lincolnshire, has also experience police heavyhandedness. He told Shooting Times: Six months ago, I was shooting pigeon in Humberside. The local firearms officer stopped her car as she passed the field and informed me that it is an offence to shoot within 50ft of the highway. She tried to get me to accept a caution for the incident, but I refused. She then confiscated both of my guns and my shotgun certificate.
Mr Barnard added that the police need to be better informed when it comes to dealing with legitimate shooters: Last week, after four months of silence, I received a summons for an offence contrary to section 161 of the 1980 Highways Act. I admit that I was too close to the road, but I was not endangering anyone. My solicitor and I are confident that I have not broken the law as the Act states that someone would have to be injured, interrupted or put in danger on the highway. A simple slap on the wrist would have sufficed. Throughout this whole process, I have been made to feel like a hardened criminal.
BASCs head of firearms, Bill Harriman, told Shooting Times that it is the responsibility of the Association of Chief Police Officers to ensure that the police are up to speed on fieldsports: When dealing with incidents involving the countryside, the police need to be knowledgeable, impartial and even-handed. BASCs experience is that police officers tend to assume that anyone with a gun in the countryside is in the wrong and BASC is working hard to change this perception.
The rest of this article appears in 19 August issue of Shooting Times.
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