FIREARMS LI­CENS­ING

Thames Valley Po­lice (TVP) is still hand­ing out Sec­tion 7 per­mits like sweets at a kids’ party, even though it places an ad­di­tional ad­min­is­tra­tive de­mand on the li­cens­ing depart­ment

Sporting Gun - - CONTENTS - DAVID FROST

David Frost in­ves­ti­gates the re­sults of Thames Valley po­lice’s is­su­ing a high num­ber of sec­tion 7 per­mits.

“What we know from ex­pe­ri­ence is that wide­spread use of these [Sec­tion 7 per­mits] places an ad­di­tional ad­min­is­tra­tive de­mand on the Li­cens­ing Depart­ment which far from re­solv­ing the prob­lem for our li­cence hold­ers ul­ti­mately ex­ac­er­bates it.”

That’s from a let­ter sent to me by As­sis­tant Chief Con­sta­ble (ACC) Andy Tay­lor, writ­ing with the ad­vice of the li­cens­ing man­ager Zoey Evans, in Fe­bru­ary 2010. If that was the case in 2010 why, in 2016, is TVP hand­ing out S7 per­mits like sweets at a kids’ party? The an­swer is sim­ple – lousy man­age­ment.

Let’s see how it works in prac­tice. Joe’s shot­gun cer­tifi­cate (SGC) ex­pires in mid Jan­uary 2017. In mid July Zoey wrote to say she was send­ing out the re­minder six months in ad­vance. She blamed this on what she called the ‘peak re­newal pe­riod’ and the de­mands it places on other de­part­ments such as Fi­nance and the In­for­ma­tion Re­search Bureau.

“Peak re­newal” pe­riod

What Zoey likes to call the peak re­newal pe­riod is in fact the nor­mal pe­riod. Twenty years ago cer­tifi­cate life was ex­tended from three to five years which re­sulted in dif­fer­ing work­loads over the new cy­cle – three nor­mal years and two with much less work but over time this has evened out. Zoey’s ex­cuse is a fee­ble at­tempt to cover up for poor per­for­mance. The cy­cle is eas­ily planned for but TVP has not done so.

The one thing I have never heard com­plaints about is the speed with which forces cash the ap­pli­cant’s cheque – within a week in most cases. I’m un­able to com­ment on the work of the In­for­ma­tion Re­search Bureau (which sounds like some­thing from the dark side of a John Le Carré novel!) but surely in this dig­i­tal age it can’t take that long to see if an ap­pli­cant has a skele­ton in the cup­board.

Joe is good with paperwork and in early Au­gust re­turns the forms. On 25 Au­gust Zoey writes again say­ing that due to the “peak re­newal pe­riod” she may be un­able to process his ap­pli­ca­tion prior to the ex­piry date – then still 4½ months away. Keen to ex­ac­er­bate the prob­lem rather than re­solve it Zoey is­sues Joe with an S7 per­mit valid from mid Jan­uary to mid July 2017. In other words she’s say­ing it could take up to 10½ months to re­new the cer­tifi­cate.

Neg­li­gi­ble risk

If Zoey can is­sue an S7 per­mit so quickly why can’t she just re­new the cer­tifi­cate? In 2015-16 TVP re­ceived 4,005 ap­pli­ca­tions for the re­newal of an SGC and re­fused

10 – 0.25 per cent. In 2014-15 the re­fusal rate was 0.16 per cent. Na­tion­ally re­fusal rates for SGC re­newals have been re­mark­ably con­sis­tent since records be­gan in 1983 and rarely ex­ceed 0.2 per cent. In other words the risk at­tached to au­to­matic re­newal is neg­li­gi­ble.

Based on the ex­pe­ri­ence of Matt, Joe may not get his cer­tifi­cate by July 2017. Matt’s cer­tifi­cate ex­pired on 25 Fe­bru­ary 2016. He ap­plied for re­newal in Novem­ber 2015 and his cheque was cashed on 19th. Con­cerned at the lack of any ob­vi­ous re­sponse he emailed TVP on 1 Fe­bru­ary to en­quire about progress. Such en­quiries should not be nec­es­sary and take up time in the li­cens­ing depart­ment that could be put to more prof­itable use. Tony Khan replied on 3rd say­ing that an S7 would be is­sued to run from the date of the cer­tifi­cate’s ex­piry.

The S7, with an

ex­piry date of 25 Au­gust, duly ar­rived but on 12th Au­gust Matt had to email again as there was no sign of a cer­tifi­cate. Tony Khan replied on 16th to say the cer­tifi­cate had been re­newed but had not been printed – an­other fee­ble ex­cuse. He was un­able to of­fer a de­liv­ery date. In the event the cer­tifi­cate was dated 6 Septem­ber, 11 days af­ter the S7 ex­pired dur­ing which time Matt was in un­law­ful pos­ses­sion al­beit with the ac­tive con­nivance of the Chief Con­sta­ble.

An S7 al­lows you to pos­sess shot­guns and buy am­mu­ni­tion and for many peo­ple is an ad­e­quate short term so­lu­tion. How­ever for a firearms cer­tifi­cate (FAC) holder the sit­u­a­tion is less rosy. Ow­ing to a quirk in the law you can­not hold ex­pand­ing am­mu­ni­tion on an S7. Ex­pand­ing am­mu­ni­tion is a le­gal re­quire­ment for deer stalk­ing and good prac­tice for all other live quarry shoot­ing. In ef­fect the S7 al­lows you to keep your ri­fle but not use it.

Andy’s coter­mi­nous cer­tifi­cates ex­pired on 14 Au­gust 2016. He ap­plied for re­newal in March and his cheque was cashed on

“The po­lice had de­lib­er­ately left him in un­law­ful pos­ses­sion for six weeks!”

11 April. He was not is­sued with an S7. On 5 Au­gust he phoned to en­quire about progress and was as­sured the re­newal was in hand. He was told he would not get the cer­tifi­cate un­til the FEO vis­ited which might be any time in the fol­low­ing six weeks. He even­tu­ally re­ceived his cer­tifi­cate, dated 26 Septem­ber, in early Novem­ber. The po­lice had de­lib­er­ately left him in un­law­ful pos­ses­sion for six weeks!

Ex­pand­ing am­mu­ni­tion

An­other FAC holder, Don, was told in Au­gust in an un­signed let­ter from Tony Khan that “due to re­stric­tions sur­round­ing ex­pand­ing am­mu­ni­tion con­di­tions on tem­po­rary per­mits your FAC is re­newed for the next five years. You are fully cov­ered to shoot as nor­mal un­der the usual terms of your full cer­tifi­cate. We are un­able to for­ward the printed hard copy un­til all pro­cesses have been com­pleted in ret­ro­spect but if you are chal­lenged to pro­duce any paperwork not to hand, po­lice of­fi­cers do have 24 hour ac­cess to our sys­tem”. Whilst it’s true the po­lice have ac­cess to the database, deal­ers and oth­ers with whom Don may need to do busi­ness do not. An un­signed let­ter is not an FAC!

Since April I have been nag­ging DCI Colin Black, Zoey’s su­per­vi­sor, to or­gan­ise a user’s meet­ing. I was told in early 2016 they were held ev­ery 18 months but the last min­uted one was held in 2012. My re­quests have been ig­nored which sug­gests lit­tle in­ter­est in cus­tomer con­cerns.

Shortly be­fore this went to press

I had a meet­ing with ACC Hogg who has re­cently taken over re­spon­si­bil­ity for firearms li­cens­ing. I am op­ti­mistic that change will hap­pen.

David Frost is the au­thor of Sport­ing Shoot­ing and the Law which can be ob­tained from the NGO.

Some shoot­ers have beenleft in un­law­ful pos­ses­sion

Thames Valley Po­lice are over­whelmed with paperwork

Sec­tion 7 “tem­po­rary per­mits” placead­di­tional ad­min­is­tra­tive de­mandon li­cens­ing de­part­ments

You can­not hold ex­pand­ingam­mu­ni­tion on a Sec­tion 7

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