Just eight decisions to return gun licences have been overturned as a result of a review of police practices in the wake of the mass shooting in Plymouth this summer.
Home Secretary Priti Patel asked all police forces in England, Wales and Scotland to check firearms licensing procedures after Jake Davison, 22, killed five people in the Keyham area of the Devon port city in August before turning the gun on himself.
As part of the review, forces were particularly asked to look again at the processes followed for returning a firearms certificate to make sure “appropriate” decisions are being made in line with Government guidance and gun laws.
In a written ministerial statement to Parliament on Monday, policing minister Kit Malthouse said: “As a result of this review of returned licences, in eight cases the original decision was overturned and licences have been re-surrendered or revoked.”
Davison, an apprentice crane operator, had received mental health support during the coronavirus lockdown from a local telephone helpline and his social media usage suggested an obsession with “incel” culture – meaning “involuntary celibate” – as well as an interest in guns.
Questions remain over how he was permitted to have a firearms licence.
The findings provide reassurance that the police have in place robust processes for issuing and reviewing firearms and shotgun licences
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating the decision by Devon and Cornwall Police to return Davison’s shotgun certificate and weapon to him.
They had been seized in December last year following an assault allegation the previous September but were returned to him in July.
According to data provided by forces set out in the statement, a total of 6,434 firearms and shotgun licences were surrendered, seized, revoked or refused over the previous 12-month period across England, Wales and Scotland. Of these, 908 licences were subsequently returned or issued following further checks or appeals decided by the courts.
Mr Malthouse said forces had confirmed their procedures are “in line with Home Office guidance”, adding: “The findings set out above provide reassurance that the police have in place robust processes for issuing and reviewing firearms and shotgun licences.”
New legal guidance introduced as a result of the shooting – which came into force on Monday – means police now have to check someone’s medical history before issuing a gun licence.
The Home Office has said all firearms applications must be accompanied by a medical document signed by a registered, practising doctor.
Any relevant health records – particularly any information on mental health, neurological conditions and substance abuse – will have to be reviewed as part of the process.
It means police, for the first time, will be legally required to follow the guidance to help improve standards and consistency across forces in the UK.
Police have also been told to review an applicant’s social media accounts and financial history as well as carry out domestic violence checks in cases where officers believe more evidence is needed before authorising a licence.
The British Medical Association which helped develop the guidance, said it makes clear that doctors are responsible for providing medical evidence but the police force will make the final decision on issuing the licence.