In­side Hamp­shire Po­lice

David Frost meets of­fi­cers from Hamp­shire po­lice to find out what goes on be­hind the scenes in the force’s li­cens­ing depart­ment


ith about 23,000 cer­tifi­cate hold­ers, Hamp­shire is a mid­dling size force as far as firearms li­cens­ing is con­cerned. As many read­ers will know from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, its per­for­mance in re­cent years has left much to be de­sired. At one stage things were so poor that the force made an apol­ogy on Ra­dio So­lent. That’s the down side. The up­side is that the force has been very open about its prob­lems and has sus­tained a frank and trans­par­ent di­a­logue with the main shoot­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions through its six­monthly stake­holder meet­ings.


It’s not of­ten that forces will of­fer a wart­sand-all in­vi­ta­tion to visit their li­cens­ing depart­ment and see what goes on be­hind the scenes. When Hamp­shire made the in­vi­ta­tion, Sport­ing Gun was quick to ac­cept. I spent a morn­ing talk­ing to Tony Hill, the firearms li­cens­ing man­ager, and Chief In­spec­tor Dar­ren Miller, who has been help­ing the Depart­ment as change man­ager. Tony has del­e­gated au­thor­ity for re­vo­ca­tions and re­fusals and reports di­rect to Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Dave Pow­ell. In some forces there is a long man­age­ment chain which tends to blur where real re­spon­si­bil­ity lies, but not so in Winch­ester.

I asked why things had gone wrong in the first place. Dar­ren said it was a long grad­ual process, mainly re­sult­ing from most of the work be­ing done on pa­per when ev­ery­thing else in the force was be­com­ing dig­i­tal. There were barely enough staff to carry out the daily work and cer­tainly not enough to think through and im­ple­ment im­prove­ments. The end­less tinker­ing with firearms law and pro­ce­dures, which has taken place in re­cent years, has cre­ated a steady in­crease in the work­load. The pa­per sys­tem made it very dif­fi­cult for man­age­ment to know what was go­ing on and to mon­i­tor the work and work­load of the staff.

The prob­lem was com­pounded by an in­evitable el­e­ment of “we’ve al­ways done it this way”. Many pro­cesses were be­ing ap­plied uni­formly to ev­ery­one. No at­tempt was be­ing made to iden­tify and man­age the po­ten­tial risk.

Ap­pli­cants about whom there were no ques­tions were get­ting the same time con­sum­ing treat­ment as the mar­ginal cases. All forces have now adopted the

“I asked why things had gone wrong in the first place”

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