Further concerns have been raised about the firearms licensing process in the case of the man from Peterlee, County Durham, who shot and killed three women with a shotgun that was legally registered despite his having a history of domestic violence.

Michael Atherton?s initial application for a shotgun certificate in 2006 was recommended for refusal by a firearms licensing officer from Durham Constabulary, Shooting Times understands, but that decision was overturned by more senior staff.

BASC is now pressing for the force to reveal the reasons behind that decision.

In a submission to the Independent Police Complaints Commission?s (IPCC) inquiry, it also asserts that there was sufficient evidence of a pattern of inappropriate behaviour sufficient to merit revocation of Mr Atherton?s certificates.

BASC has also called into question the competence of Durham Constabulary?s firearms licensing team, and says that the force lost the confidence of the local shooting community after two of its staff were charged with misconduct in a public office over the sale of surrendered firearms.

In July 2010, a judge gave both men suspended sentences and described Durham?s firearms licensing regime as ?extremely lax, if not chaotic?.

?This reflects BASC?s experience,? BASC?s submission says.

?Durham?s firearms licensing team had no enthusiasm for partnership working either with associations or the local shooting community – this resulted in a lack of confidence and trust.?

When approached by the BBC, Durham police refused to comment.

IPCC commissioner Nicholas Long would only say his organisation was examining the issues around the granting of Mr Atherton?s firearms licence and subsequent renewals.

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