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A vital fund to fight for our way of life

BASC’s ring-fenced Fighting Fund is being put to good use, both for individuals and, crucially, on a national level, says Conor O’Gorman.

As a UK-wide organisation, BASC is often fighting battles on several fronts. Policy issues can arise unpredictably and require significant financial resources to address. 

Much of the legislation that impacts on shooting and conservation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is now devolved. Firearms law and guidance is interpreted differently by dozens of police forces according to their own procedures. 

As for legislation and policy developments impacting England and at UK level, the latest polls predict a Labour government with a landslide majority. 

There will be organisations who want to restrict shooting knocking on ministers’ doors come 5 July, and more than half the MPs in the House of Commons could be first-timers with little knowledge of what shooting is all about. 

With all that in mind, we must continue to move quickly to mitigate threats and seize opportunities as they arise. BASC has a seven-figure ring-fenced Fighting Fund reserve that enables us do so. Over the past few years the Fighting Fund has helped us legally challenge restrictions to the General Licences for the control of pest birds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Less restrictive 

Last year, BASC was granted permission by the High Court to bring a judicial review of a Defra decision that restricted the release of gamebirds in certain areas of England (News, 26 June). The Fighting Fund covered our legal costs and in June the claim was settled and a new less restrictive General Licence issued. 

In 2023, the Fighting Fund helped to launch the Act Now campaign, which aimed to galvanise a massive response against the Welsh government’s proposals to ban gamebird releasing in Wales. 

There are also positive applications of the Fighting Fund. Last week, ahead of the general election, BASC commissioned a full-page advert in the Metro, a newspaper with a daily circulation of a million. The national advertising campaign featured key messages about shooting and was seen by commuters in major metropolitan areas, including London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow. 

The Fighting Fund has also been helping many members individually on the legal front, challenging unfair decisions by police forces on firearms licensing. 

Most of these cases are settled out of court and we cover the legal costs from the Fighting Fund. For example, last year we helped a Young Shot member, aged nine, who had been refused a shotgun certificate on the grounds of his age alone. We got lawyers on the case, the police force backed down and the certificate granted. 

Approval is generally given to cases that have reasonable prospects for success and involve a principle or point of law that could affect others who shoot. We don’t win every challenge we agree to take on, but we do cover the member’s legal costs via the Fighting Fund, whatever the outcome. 

This year we have had two important wins that went all the way to court. In March, we helped a member win an appeal against the revocation of his certificate by Cheshire Constabulary (News, 21 March) and in May another revocation appeal was successful, this time in involving Kent Police (News, 29 May). These cases incurred significant legal costs but, thanks to the Fighting Fund, the members did not suffer any financial loss. 

While we take on dozens of legal cases annually, our firearms team can resolve many hundreds more through discussion and negotiation, without needing to bring in the lawyers. BASC has always maintained a positive reputation with the police and the government as a mature and reasonable organisation to deal with. With the various uses of the Fighting Fund, we are also respected as an organisation that will seek justice and has the financial clout to do so. 

LAST CHANCE TO MAKE AN INFORMED VOTE: Visit BASC’s website to read a briefing on the party manifestos and to find out if any of the parliamentary candidates in your constituency have confirmed their support for shooting.