Ison Harrison Solicitors are specialists in firearm and shotgun licensing appeals. This article focusses some of the cases we dealt with recently. We have chosen to include two successful appeals and two which were dismissed. We hope the summaries are useful that they highlight some common issues in shotgun and firearm licensing cases.
The client had been a shotgun certificate holder for several years in 2010 when he received a police caution for growing cannabis plants. Understandably, his certificate was immediately revoked. He waited nine to reapply but application was refused. The refusal was due to the caution and ‘intelligence reports’ said to link him to continued involvement in drug dealing.
We argued that the intelligence reports were of such poor quality that they should be discarded. We stated since the caution our client had behaved in the manner to be expected of a shotgun certificate holder and that sufficient time had elapsed to assuage any concerns in that regard.
We were able to demonstrate that the intelligence reports were from an untested, uncorroborated source and had not been followed up by the Police. As such, the evidential value of the reports was virtually nil.
The Judge agreed that the appellant should be entitled to ‘live down’ the old caution and that it was clear that he had ‘moved on with is life’. Crucially the Judge agreed that the intelligence was effectively worthless. The appeal was allowed and our client’s application was granted.
This case involved a report to police by our client’s wife alleging that he had argued with her and had taken her car without consent. The police attended the family home and although no arrests were made our client’s guns were taken. One of the seized guns was not in the gun safe when it was recovered, in breach of security arrangements.
On appeal we argued that the domestic incident was insignificant, our client had left the family home to diffuse an argument and had returned in a calm and compliant manner prior to the Police arriving. The fact that he had taken his wife’s car was irrelevant. He gave evidence that he had been repairing the shotgun and had placed it in a cupboard for only a matter of minutes. We produced evidence of the issue with the shotgun and explained our client’s storage arrangements in detail.
The Police argued that the domestic incident showed a lack of control and the insecure shotgun was potentially very dangerous.
The Judge agreed that the domestic incident was not sufficiently serious to warrant revocation but was concerned about the security arrangements. The major issue was that the appellant had left the property leaving the gun insecure for several minutes. On that basis the appeal was refused.
The appeal followed the revocation of shotgun and firearms certificates along with an explosives (black powder) licence on medical grounds.
It was alleged that as a result of a shoulder injury our client was physically unable to handle firearms safely and further, that painkillers prescribed for the injury had affected his cognitive function. The conclusion of the police was that our client could not possess firearms without danger to public safety or the peace on medical grounds.
It was important in this matter to ‘act first and think later’ so as to ensure that the right to appeal was not lost. We submitted the appeal within the 21 day limit and requested that the appeal itself be heard by the court after our client had recovered from surgery. We subsequently obtained and served medical evidence from our client’s GP and physiotherapist confirming that he was no longer using opiate medication and had recovered physically.
Having examined the medical report and our client’s detailed witness statement the Police aged to reverse their decision and reissue the certificates. There was a significant costs saving in adopting this approach and avoiding a final hearing.
The case concerned a refusal to grant a shotgun certificate which had lapsed several years earlier. The police refused the application due to allegations of domestic violence, the breakdown of our client’s marriage and ongoing divorce proceedings. Further, it was alleged on the day of the appeal hearing that the police had evidence of the appellant storing his father’s shotguns in his cabinet after his certificate had elapsed in breach of the permitted security arrangements.
We were critical of the approach taken by the Police in presenting the evidence and the Judge agreed that the Police had not followed the Home Office Guide and had failed to serve material which would have assisted our client. The appeal was adjourned for the Police to serve the evidence which confirmed the reasons why he had not been charged with any offences.
We argued that the domestic abuse simply did not take place as alleged and the police evidence tended to suggest that might well be the case that the allegations had no substance. We stated that the shotguns stored by our client’s father at our client’s home were a temporary measure only (as he did not have space in his cabinet) and that at no time did he have access to the cabinet.
In deciding the appeal the Judge made no finding around the domestic abuse allegations, stating that he could not be sure one way or the other as to whether our client had committed any offences. The Judge was more concerned about the security issue and the ongoing divorce which he felt may lead to further tensions. As a result the appeal was refused.
In dismissing appeals the Courts placed real emphasis, quite rightly, on security issues. It is not likely to be a coincidence in our opinion that the appeals which involved problems with security were dismissed.
It is also of note that the Courts appeared to apply less weight to evidence falling short of a conviction, and on poor quality police intelligence than the police. It may be that the judiciary are more familiar with the case of R v Crispin Mason than the Police, but it certainly provides reissuances for those who have lost their certificates in similar situations.
The fact that both cases involving allegations of domestic abuse were refused for other reasons is also interesting.