Banned from shooting for life?
A reader wants to know where he stands, having been convicted of manslaughter
Q: I am currently serving a nine-year prison sentence for manslaughter (there was no element of violence in this offence and the court accepted that there was no intention to cause harm to anyone). I have been a keen shooter for around 15 years but have been told that because I have received a prison sentence of more than four years, I will now have a lifetime firearms ban, which includes air rifles. Is this the case?
A: Section 21 of the Firearms Act 1968 creates “prohibited persons”. This means they are banned from possessing any firearms (including airguns and antiques) and any ammunition for a firearm, even an airgun pellet. Someone who is sentenced to more than three months’ imprisonment but less than three years is prohibited from possession for five years. If the sentence is for more than three years, the prohibition is for life. Suspended sentences also attract the five-year prohibition. Time starts to run from the date of your release from prison and the ban applies to England, Wales and Scotland. It is possible to go before a judge in the Crown Court (or a sheriff in Scotland) and apply for the prohibition to be lifted.
You can do this yourself, as an appellant-in-person. What I would normally advise is to prepare a statement for you to read out in the witness box prior to being cross-examined by the chief constable’s barrister or advocate. The judge will have some questions too.
My experience is that judges are shrewd and fair people who will want to see justice done, by giving an appellant-in-person a fair crack of the whip. The judge may decide to lift the prohibition but even it if is lifted, the chief constable can still refuse to issue a certificate. You have the right of appeal.