A reader who was arrested is worried about his licence renewal. David Frost offers some words of advice
Q: Two weeks ago I was arrested and given a formal caution for an offence I didn’t commit. I’m now concerned that in three years’ time my shotgun licence renewal application will be turned down.
The officer who handed out the caution said the alleged offence does not attract a police record and there has so far been no publicity. But I am very nervous the police will start to dig into their files come renewal time and use any minor excuse to stop my licence and then up the statistics of non-renewals.
I have never been in trouble before, not even a parking ticket. I am very worried and hope you can help.
A: The first thing is that nobody should ever under any circumstances accept a caution without first taking legal advice.
Free legal advice is available to anyone who is arrested, although you may be kept waiting for it as part of a softening up process.
What is a caution?
A caution is a formal acceptance by you that you have committed an offence. The police often use cautions for minor offences which it would not be cost effective to take to court.
Cautions, which are not technically convictions, are recorded on the police national computer. They are not covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act so they never become spent and can be dredged up years later in some circumstances, such as applications for sensitive jobs.
They should be declared on the shotgun certificate application form.
That’s the downside. However there is an upside in your case. Firstly the offence you committed must have been a minor one otherwise you would have ended up in court.
Minor offences, indeed even short jail terms, should not normally be a bar to getting a certificate provided the offence did not include violence.
If the police think you are unfit, by virtue of the offence you have committed, to hold a shotgun certificate, they should revoke your certificate without delay.
The fact they haven’t suggests they have no grounds to do so.
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What about future refusal?
If the police were to refuse to renew the certificate in three years’ time solely because of this offence you would almost certainly be successful on appeal.
If they don’t revoke your certificate in the next couple of weeks I think you can sleep soundly.