An ACPO report has concluded that there were no reasonable opportunities for intervention within the firearms licensing system to prevent the multiple shootings by Derrick Bird on 2nd June 2010 in West Cumbria
Cumbria’s Chief Constable, Craig Mackey, commissioned ACPO to review firearms licensing procedures in his force as well as the national system for licensing after Bird killed twelve people and injured eleven more with firearms he held lawfully.
ACPO lead on firearms licensing and chair of ACPO Firearms and Explosives Licensing Working Group, Assistant Chief Constable Adrian Whiting, concluded that Cumbria Constabulary’s processes were robust and that no reasonable changes to legislation would have been able to prevent these events.
Aside from examining the decision to grant Derrick Bird’s shotgun and firearm certificates, the review also considered whether there were any guidance or legislative changes that, if implemented, would improve public safety more widely.
ACC Whiting’s key recommendations include:
• Establishing formal links between General Practitioners (GPs), mental health services and police forces to enable medical professionals to alert police if they have concerns regarding certificate holders.
• Where police consider it necessary to obtain a medical report from the applicant’s GP on each application for grant and renewal of a licence, this should be done at the applicant’s expense rather than the current arrangements in which the cost falls to the police.
• Making a formal approach to members of an applicant’s family at grant and renewal as to the applicant’s suitability.
• Operating a single type of certificate for both firearms and shotguns.
ACC Whiting has also pointed to a number of areas where he believes Parliament may wish to satisfy itself that what is happening in practice is what was intended in law.
• The increase in handguns possessed for pest control.
• The status of people under the Firearms Act who have been sentenced to imprisonment and their sentence is wholly suspended. Currently, these individuals are not prohibited from possessing a firearm.
• The regulations surrounding miniature rifle ranges could result in unintended easy access to Section 1 firearms without the need for a firearm certificate or supervision.
ACC Whiting said:
“Cumbria Constabulary’s firearms licensing team administer the application and renewal of shotgun and firearm certificates with skill, professionalism and commitment. The decisions and actions they took were fully in accordance with the law, regulation, Home Office advice and ACPO guidance.
“The recommendations I have made in this review may not have prevented the tragic events on 2nd June 2010. However, I think it is important to bring certain aspects of our broader firearms licensing regime to the attention of the public. There is a clear opportunity to legislate to mitigate against certain risks, for example access to Section 1 firearms, before a tragedy occurs, and to draw the legal provisions together into one piece of legislation.”
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Firearms and Explosives Licensing Working Group assists police forces and other organisations to maximise public safety through the application of domestic controls on firearms and explosives possession. The group works closely with interested parties, including the Home Office, to advise chief officers of police on matters of interpretation and practice. The group has been instrumental in securing the introduction of the National Firearms Licensing Management System, funded by the Home Office, which links all forces and provides, amongst many features, a mechanism for ensuring that details of certificate holders coming to adverse notice of the authorities are provided to their licensing force.