Shooters must “tread carefully” or risk losing their guns following claims that police are revoking first and asking questions later.
The police are overcautious and too quick to revoke shotgun and firearm certificates, according to a firearms legal specialist.
Earlier this month, Shooting Times reported on prosecutions launched by South Wales Police against those who withheld “spent convictions” during firearms applications.
It has now been suggested that police forces across the UK are taking a more hardline stance on firearms licensing as a result of violent gun crime.
Barry Culshaw, a solicitor specialising in firearms licensing appeals at the law firm Blake Morgan, told Shooting Times that he has advised a number of clients in the past three years in which certificate holders had their guns seized and licences revoked by police, only for the decision to later be reversed, two of them upon appeal to the Crown Court.
“The incidents have tended to be a broad spectrum,” explained Mr Culshaw. “There may have been a public disorder issue, there may have been a domestic abuse issue, but the nub of it all is that at no stage did the client misbehave with a firearm. It’s a suitability issue at the end of the day.”
Mr Culshaw suggested that this extra caution comes in the wake of high-profile cases such as that of John Lowe, the so-called “puppy farm killer”, who had his shotguns first confiscated and then returned to him by Surrey Police, before going on to use them to commit a double murder in February 2014. Surrey Police received severe criticism in the aftermath.
He said: “I can’t help conclude that there has been a knock-on effect on all firearms licensing departments and the way in which they deal with these issues and that they are being overcautious and effectively passing the buck to the Crown Court.”
Rather safe than sorry
Mr Culshaw suggested that the police would rather be “safe than sorry” and explained: “The root-and-branch review of procedures in the aftermath of the Surrey case would appear to have resulted in a system of licensing in which the public can have confidence. On the contrary, in the current climate those who hold shotgun and/or firearm certificates will have to tread very carefully.
“Any instances of public disorder, drink-related concerns, depression, neighbour disputes or domestic discord is likely to result in a review of suitability and the likely consequence will be revocation, leaving a Crown Court appeal as the only recourse.”