Firearms officers investigated over ‘fraudulently signing weapon certificates’

Police firearms officer
Police firearms officer

Nine firearms officers attached to the National Crime Agency (NCA) are under investigation over allegations they falsified their accreditation credentials, The Telegraph can reveal.

The group are accused of claiming to have completed mandatory weapons training exercises when they had not.

The allegations are so serious that six of the group, who are qualified instructors, have been suspended while the matter is fully investigated.

It comes after two Met firearms officers were found guilty of gross misconduct for falsifying their records and raises serious questions over the way police weapons training is delivered and monitored.

The NCA, which is dubbed Britain’s FBI, plays the lead role in preventing the illegal importation and trade in deadly weapons.

‘Disturbingly lax’

Like all police firearms officers, those attached to the NCA, must undergo frequent refresher training, known as reclassification shoots.

The courses - which must be completed every six months - are vital in ensuring that all those authorised to carry firearms meet the highest standards.

But a disciplinary hearing in 2019 involving the two Met officers warned that the police firearms training regime was “highly dysfunctional” and “disturbingly lax”, with instructors regularly stamping colleagues’ log books suggesting courses had been completed when they had not.

Instructors were also criticised for “self stamping” their own documentation without having fulfilled the requisite training exercises.

In a recent legal hearing about the Met case, a judge commented: “I have been told that since then systems have been overhauled and that such laxity is a thing of the past. I hope this is true.”

But sources have told The Telegraph the practice remains widespread and attempts to stamp it out have not been effective.

One source said: “If you are booked in to do a reclassification shoot on a certain day but then you are allocated an operation, you have a choice. Lots of officers, who are very highly trained anyway, will think ‘I don’t want to let my colleagues down by saying I can’t take part in the operation’.”

Internal investigation raised concerns

The alleged wrongdoing at the NCA came to light when an internal NCA investigation raised concerns about the conduct of four AFOs, three of whom were qualified instructors.

They were suspected of signing documents suggesting they had completed and passed mandatory training assessments, when they had not.

As a result the NCA’s Professional Standards Unit (PSU) began an investigation which involved monitoring CCTV at a firearms training facility in West Yorkshire.

During the operation suspicion fell on a further five officers, who are also accused of claiming to have passed assessments when they had not.

An NCA spokesman said: “Internal NCA investigations have identified potential discrepancies in accreditation processes relating to a number of firearms trainers.

“Six officers have been suspended pending further investigation. The capacity to train firearms officers is not disrupted.

“The NCA expects the highest standards of integrity and conduct from its officers. The investigation is ongoing and at this stage it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

The Home Office declined to comment.