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Shooting victims’ families declare system ‘shambles’

Relatives of those killed by the Plymouth gunman criticise police “failings and incompetence” after a five-week inquest into the tragedy

Plymouth shooting memorial

The inquest concluded that the gunman unlawfully killed five people

‘‘A system that was a shambles from the top to the bottom,” is the verdict of the relatives of the Plymouth shooting victims.

The families of four people killed by Plymouth gunman Jake Davison issued a joint statement at the end of the inquest into their deaths that accuses the police of giving Davison a “licence to kill”. The jury at the inquest concluded that Dawson unlawfully killed five people, including his mother.

“We now know that this evil act was facilitated and enabled by a series of failings and incompetence from the people and organisations that are supposed to keep us safe. In particular, Devon and Cornwall Police failed us. The evidence that we have heard during this inquest is a consistent story of individual failures, breathtaking incompetence and systemic failings within every level of the firearms licensing unit,” said Rebecca Martyn, who lost her husband Lee and three-year-old daughter Sophie in the tragedy.


During the five-week inquest, Devon and Cornwall Police accepted they were incorrect to grant Davison a shotgun certificate due to his history of violence and have also said the impact of his autism diagnosis was not fully understood.

The force also acknowledged it should not have returned his pump-action shotgun — which had been confiscated after he attacked two children in a park — five weeks before the shootings. The families said it was “unbelievable” it was returned to him.

They also called for broad changes to the firearms licensing system in England and Wales. In legal submissions to the court, they said: “There needs to be radical reform. That means fewer guns in circulation with robust safeguards. The national picture reflects widespread complacency by licensing authorities and the home secretary.”

Christopher Graffius, BASC’s executive director of communications and public affairs, said: “BASC is clear that we need a system of licensing that protects public safety and also provides an efficient service. It is plain to see that that system was absent in Keyham with tragic consequences.

“It is obvious from the comments of the coroner and the verdict of the jury at the inquests that the fault lay not with the existing laws but with their inconsistent application by Devon and Cornwall Police.”