There are currently 13,000 licensed firearms and shotgun certificate holders in Leicestershire and there are also numerous airgun users involved in pest
control. Despite campaigns to raise awareness of legal shooting, there has been a significant increase in reports of firearms-related incidents within our county and nationally. These reports are often vague, along the lines of “a suspicious man in a balaclava with a long-barrelled gun” or relate experiences of shots being fired near to a road or footpath. Sadly, this type of incident makes up almost 10 per cent of armed police deployments, as we have a duty of care to send armed officers to investigate.

Leicestershire police has developed a way of assisting and protecting legitimate shooters in these circumstances. The Voluntary Notification of Shooting Events has been running for almost 12 months. If a planned shoot has the potential to be heard or seen by the general public, the scheme gives the shooter the opportunity to contact the police before the day. If a member of the public subsequently reports shooting in that area, we can contact the shooter to check if it’s them before sending out an officer.

I have been working on the armed response vehicle for about four years and have been a police officer for nine years, but I came from an agricultural background and farming family. I am an active member of my local shoot and am often out in the evenings lamping and enjoying a wide range of rural pursuits. I am keen to promote a feeling of trust between the shooting community and the police.

From the gamekeeper organising a large commercial shoot to a man and his dog
out for a few hours’ pigeon shooting, as a trusted member of the certificate-holding community you are recognised as responsi ble. You can exercise that responsibility by asking questions such as: “Will I be near or in view of a road?” or “Is there a footpath near my shooting hide?” and “Could my legitimate behaviour be misinterpreted by the public?” If the answer is “yes” then you could contact us with details of when and where the shoot will take place, a contact telephone number and details of any vehicles being used if you are out lamping for instance.

I understand the issue from both sides. As a police officer the last thing I want to do is to be called out to a genuine shoot, wasting time and public money. Equally, as a shooter, if I’m in an area which may include a footpath or road, I’d rather make a quick phone call to let the police know of my intentions that day than have it interrupted. I’ve found that it only takes three minutes to log the details. I regard voluntary notification as necessary for the preservation of a sport I enjoy.

Many people in the countryside feel there is an ever-increasing level of restriction, rules and legislation encroaching on their lives. I can assure you that this is not a back-door way of adding to that. If it was, I wouldn’t back the scheme. I feel it will help protect the shooting community, lessening the chances of increased regulation due to the number of police armed responses.

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