A reader has been told by a firearms officer that his licence won't be renewed. Is this legal?
Q: I have applied for the renewal of my licences and have been told by my firearms enquiry officer (FEO) that because I drink more than the Government weekly limit, he will refuse to renew the licences because I am intemperate. I go to the local pub three days a week and I either walk home or my wife gives me a lift. I have never been in trouble with the police. Can I lose my firearms licence because of this?
A: FEOs are not decision-makers in the licensing process; they do not have the Chief Officer’s delegated authority. This may be vested in the firearms licensing manager, a senior police officer or some other decision-maker. FEOs are there to make enquiries and recommendations.
Drinking guidelines have no force in law
The Chief Medical Officer’s (CMO) Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines are just that; they are guidelines rather than tramlines and have no force in law. Simply because you choose to ignore the CMO’s advice does not automatically mean that you have an alcohol problem. The FEO is not entitled to assume that you have one either.
One of the tests for revoking a firearm certificate is that the applicant is of intemperate habits. Exceeding Government recommendations does not make you necessarily intemperate. You could sit in a pub several times a week, enjoy its ambiance while being a model customer and then walk quietly home having exceeded the drinking guidelines. That does not make you intemperate in any way. On the other hand, if the same amount of drink made you commode-huggingly drunk every night so that you then drove home and beat up your wife, you would be grossly intemperate and not suitable to possess firearms.
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The Home Office Guide on Firearms Licensing Law 2016 [12.22(a)] lends a sensible perspective on the matter. It says: “Evidence of alcohol or drug abuse that may indicate that a person is unfit/unsuitable to possess a firearm due to the possible impairment of judgement and loss of self-control. The relevant case law here is Luke v Little (1980) supported by Chief Constable of Essex v Germain (1991). An assessment will need to be made into the circumstances of each case.”
My advice is that you take up the matter with the licensing manager immediately. You have very good grounds for appealing to the Crown Court if your certificate is not renewed as a result of this.