The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

Backdated certificates are being issued to applicants

BASC has discovered that a number of police forces are backdating certificates, despite the practice contravening the Firearms Act 1968.

Some certificates have been backdated in circumstances where, due to delays in renewing, individuals have been issued Section 7 temporary permits. The temporary permits have sometimes been in place for more than 12 months.

When a new certificate was issued, it was backdated to the previous one’s expiry date. This is directly in contravention of Section 28A of the Firearms Act 1968, which states: “A certificate shall, unless previously revoked or cancelled, continue in force for five years from the date when it was granted or last renewed.” It is also against Home Office and Firearms and Explosives Licensing Working Group advice, but there is evidence that this is occurring around the country.

This news comes just months after there were calls to overhaul the firearms licensing process in Britain. In 2022, an investigation headed by BASC found that there were significant inconsistencies in the licensing process in the UK. The investigation showed that the cost of handling a firearms licence application by the licensing departments can differ by up to six times.

The cost of processing applications ranged from £87 by Avon and Somerset Police to £522 by Durham Constabulary. 

Significant delays were recorded across many licensing departments, with average turnaround times ranging from 40 working days by Hertfordshire Constabulary to 178 working days by Cumbria Constabulary.

These delays have serious consequences for the shooting community and the gun trade, playing a significant part in the 8% reduction in certificate holders over the past two years. This equates to a net loss of 47,000 applicants and a reduction of more than £100 million to the economy. 

Martin Parker, BASC head of firearms, said: “Responses from BASC members over the past two weeks have shown that five forces – Hampshire, Greater Manchester Police, West Mercia, Cumbria and Northamptonshire – have all been backdating certificates after delays in renewals. Cumbria and Northamptonshire are the worst offenders, with certificates being backdated by more than 12 months. Given their situation with regard to delays in renewals, this makes no sense, as well as being in contravention of Section 28A of the Firearms Act 1968 and Home Office guidance.”

Multiple sources believe a major overhaul of the licensing service, through either the unification of licensing or the creation of an independent regulator, is the only way to avert crisis in this area.