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Still waiting for my firearms certificate

I have contacted the firearms department and was told that “we have installed a new system and this has caused some delays in sending items out, but we have started printing certificates off now and you should receive yours shortly”. This was two weeks ago and to date I have not seen a thing. The certificate is now eight weeks overdue. I do wonder what the legal position would be if I had been out shooting and was pulled over in a spot check with a shotgun on board and no official paperwork to prove my authority to possess. Is this a record?

DAVID FROST says: Probably not, it’s amazing the level of inefficiency some police forces can achieve without even trying. We pay a lot of money for our certificates and the last time anyone costed it out, the fee was much greater than the value of time and effort involved.

You are entitled to expect the police to provide an efficient service. When it was suggested the whole business be handed over to a civilian organisation, the police objected strongly, so it’s not as though it is a job they don’t want to do.

The problem is since your old certificate expired you have been in breach of the law by having a shotgun in your possession. The penalties for this are severe. The fact the police are unlikely to prosecute because it would be too embarrassing is small comfort. If you are stopped by the police, for example as the result of a traffic accident, you will at best be seriously inconvenienced and at worst could find yourself in the police station whilst they sort things out.

I suggest you do the following:
1. Send them an email forthwith asking for a Section 7 permit to be sent to you by return of post. This will allow you to continue to use your gun and to buy ammunition.
2. Follow up the email with a phone call just before or just after lunch to make sure they are doing something and will get the Section 7 in the post that day, first class.
3. Don’t allow them to fob you off with the ‘we don’t issue Section 7s’ excuse, which they often trot out on these occasions, or to blame it all on a computer failure. Be insistent and above all be polite. Point out you (and presumably many others) have broken the law because of the police’s failure to turn your certificate around promptly.
4. Point out on their web site they set a 60 day target for renewing certificates and have fallen seriously short in your case. They’ve been sitting on your money for over three months as well.
5. Ask for the name of the chief constable and tell them you will be writing to him personally to complain. They’ll probably try to get you to follow their usual complaints procedure but don’t fall for that. Ask also for the name of the person in the firearms department you are talking to so that you can mention it in your letter.
6. Remember you are on the moral high ground. You did all they required by getting the paperwork to them in good time. They have fallen seriously short in their standard of service in consequence of which you are in breach of the law. You are fully entitled to take a strong line.
7. Writing a letter of complaint to the chief constable: Address it to him personally. Keep it reasonably brief (one page at the most), be factual, be polite. Ask him to explain why the service has been so poor and what he is doing to improve it. Tell him you look forward to hearing from him so he’s in no doubt that you want a reply.
8. If you are a BASC member phone their firearms department and ask them to apply pressure. They may also have had other complaints.

Got a question? Contact: [email protected] or Sporting Gun, PO Box 157, Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 9FU