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West Mercia to keep paper applications in licence U-turn

BASC challenges the force’s decision to insist on online certificate applications, on the grounds that it would breach the Equality Act.

 West Mercia Police has confirmed that paper submissions for firearms and shotgun certificates will continue to be accepted, to the relief of the shooting community. Initially, West Mercia Police had announced that, from 1 May, printed shotgun and firearms applications would no longer be accepted. 

In its previous announcement, the force said: “The new process follows feedback from licence holders that the current paper process is slow and outdated.” 

It advised that those without access to the internet should use the computers and Wi-Fi in public libraries. In response, BASC wrote to the force’s chief constable to challenge the change on the grounds that the decision would have been illegal and discriminatory. 

BASC said that the decision was at odds with the Government’s commitment that individuals who do not have access to the internet should not be disadvantaged when dealing with public sector organisations and that refusing to accept written applications is discriminatory as it penalises older certificate holders. This is in line with the Equality Act of 2010, which formally bans age discrimination against adults in the provision of services and public functions. 

On its website, West Mercia Police responded: “This week we announced applications for new firearms and shotgun licensing certificates will need to be submitted online. This position has been challenged by BASC and we’d like to clarify the process.” 

The force added that, while it would encourage “where possible, for applications to be made online”, where there are “issues affecting accessibility, a manual application may be submitted”. 

Further to this, West Mercia Police stated: “Applicants will be supported through the manual process by staff within our Firearms Licensing Unit [and] reasonable adjustments and alternative solutions will be made to assist applicants, where this may be the case.” 

BASC’s director of firearms Bill Harriman said: “We are pleased West Mercia has taken note of our concerns and BASC welcomes its decision to clarify the situation. 

“BASC has always supported online applications as being more efficient and providing a digital audit trail, but we are pleased to see that provision has been made for applicants who cannot apply online or would struggle to do so.”