Leading Shotgun and Firearms Licensing Solicitors
The team at Olliers have considerable experience representing clients in both criminal and licensing appeal cases concerning shotguns and firearms.
With gun control a longstanding priority for successive governments and police chiefs alike, the law relating to firearms in the UK is complex and the consequences of falling foul of it can be far reaching, including mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment.
How can you obtain a firearm and shotgun certificate?
In order to own a gun in Great Britain, an individual must apply for and be granted a certificate which is issued by the firearms licensing department of the local police force. The majority of personal certificates held tends to be by those who enjoy shooting as a hobby or sport and those involved in wildlife management or pest control.
As of 31 March 2022, there were 151, 218 firearm certificates on issue in England and Wales; 522,627 shotgun certificates on issue and 539, 212 people who held a firearm and/or a shotgun certificate.
What conditions need to be satisfied to issue a firearms/shotgun certificate?
Before someone is issued with a firearm/shotgun certificate, the chief officer must be satisfied that:
- the applicant has good reason for having the firearm;
- the applicant is fit to be entrusted with a firearm; and
- the public safety or peace will not be endangered.
Although it is ultimately the responsibility of the chief officer to grant certificates, the reality is that other senior officers will often act under delegated authority and it will be firearms enquiry officers and firearms licensing managers who assess the suitability of the applicant in the first instance.
Such assessments will ordinarily include a home visit during which the applicant will be questioned about their good reason for having the gun such as clay pigeon shooting, deer stalking or pest control, amongst others.
The police will also want to assess the security arrangements including the gun cabinet which must be secured to a fixed wall with the keys securely stored elsewhere.
Watch Gareth Martin explain how Olliers can help with a firearms and shotgun certificate:
The majority of firearms and shotgun certificates are held by those who enjoy shooting as a hobby, or who are involved in wildlife management, or indeed pest control. To obtain a certificate you need to apply to the local firearms licensing department and the certificates are issued by the Chief Police Officer.
Before anyone’s issued with the firearms or shotgun certificate, the Chief Officer must be satisfied that the individual who’s applying has a good reason to hold a firearm or a shotgun, that the public safety will not be put at any jeopardy and also that the applicant is fit to be entrusted with a firearm or a shotgun.
Whilst every application must be decided on its own merits, the fact is that you must declare any previous convictions no matter how insignificant or long ago they may have happened. If you don’t declare any previous convictions, then it may have a detrimental effect on your application.
Someone’s shotgun certificate can be revoked by the Chief Officer if the police believe that that person can no longer be entrusted to hold their firearm without posing a danger to the public or public safety. The same also applies to a firearm certificate which can be revoked if the police believe that you are of intemperate behaviour, unsound mind or just generally unfit to hold a firearm.
The decision is very much at the discretion of the Chief Officer but common examples we have encountered include neighbour disputes, allegations of domestic violence and allegations of misuse of drugs and alcohol.
An appeal against the revocation of a firearm or shotgun certificate is heard in your local Crown Court. It is not a review hearing and they will hear evidence put to them on the day and make the decision based on that evidence alone. It is often the case that new evidence in the form of medical evidence, character references or witness statements from those who know you best can be put forward to assist the court in making their decision.
An appeal must be lodged within 21 days of receiving the letter of revocation. The appeal should be lost with your local Crown Court and a copy also sent to the local Firearms Licensing Management team.
Unfortunately legal aid is not available in these cases, however Olliers are able to assist you on a fixed fee basis or on an hourly rate. If you have an insurance policy which has legal expenses cover, we can also assist.
Olliers have a team of dedicated solicitors with many years experience in this field and we’re here to help you get the best possible outcome.
Do I need to declare any criminal convictions to obtain a firearm/shotgun certificate?
In addition, applicants are expected to declare any previous criminal convictions no matter how inconsequential or historic they may seem. They will also have to provide the details for two referees, as well as, their GP who is likely to be contacted to ensure that the applicant is medically fit to own a gun. GPs should not, nor should they be expected to, comment upon the applicant’s suitability beyond medical fitness, but it is worth flagging that a successful applicant will have a note placed on their GP records confirming that they own a gun and the GP should inform police if concerns arise during the licence period which is ordinarily five years, before renewal.
If successful, an applicant will be issued with the relevant certificate which will set out the details of the guns to be held and any conditions attached to the same. The certificate will normally be valid for five years after which it must be renewed; a renewal application may give rise to another home visit.
Although mass shootings are rare in the UK, incidents such as that carried out in Plymouth in August 2021 when a firearms certificate holder killed five people and injured two others, has meant that there has been increased pressure on firearms licensing departments to take an even more pro-active role in assessing and monitoring those with firearm/shotgun certificates. The knock on effect is that now more than ever certificate holders could have their certificates revoked and guns removed for arguably unfair reasons.
When can a firearms/shotgun certificate be revoked?
A chief officer of the police may immediately revoke a certificate in the following circumstances:
If the holder is considered to be of intemperate habits or unsound mind or otherwise unfit to be entrusted with a firearm;
Firearm and/or Shotgun certificate:
If the holder can no longer be permitted to hold a firearm or shotgun without danger to the public safety or the peace.
The decision is completely at the discretion of the chief officer and very often the revocation letter is nothing more than a couple of paragraphs quoting one of the reasons above and setting out the fact that there is a right of appeal.
Based on our experience, the police tend to rely on the ‘intemperate habits’ limb in cases where a certificate holder has been involved in some form of domestic violence incident, even if no charges have been brought or situations involving a neighbour dispute, as well as, in cases where there is some suggestion of drug or alcohol misuse.
Cases in which the certificate holder is alleged to be of ‘unsound mind’ will ordinarily stem from medical evidence which supports the assertion by police that there is a risk to members of the public or the licence holder themselves. This is quite often the case where an individual may be suffering from considerable mental health issues or if they have attempted suicide.
Revocations or refusals in which the police cite the potential danger to public safety or the peace are likely to relate to unsafe or improper handling or storage of guns. They may also concern allegations of criminal conduct, whether by the certificate holder directly or by association with others known to be engaged in criminal activity.
It is important to note that it is a criminal offence not to comply with a notice to hand over a firearm or shotgun which is usually served simultaneously at the time of the revocation. Whilst the police may initially seize the guns, it is often worth liaising with them to make your own arrangements for storage with an RFD or other authorised person pending any appeal because we have seen all too often that very valuable guns and equipment can become damaged or in some cases disposed of in error.
Firearms licensing consultation
On 29 June 2023, the Government launched a consultation on firearms licensing. The consultation has already been described by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) as “the most significant and important firearms licensing consultation in 35 years”.
Click here to read more.
Can I appeal the decision to revoke my shotgun/firearm certificate?
Yes. If you have your firearm and/or shotgun certificate revoked, you have the right to appeal this decision. An appeal must be lodged within 21 days of receiving the revocation notice and should be sent to the Crown Court in your local area with a copy also sent to the decision maker via the firearms licensing department.
Your notice of appeal does not need to set out the specific details or supporting evidence for your appeal, all of which can be done at a later date to be agreed between the parties with the Court.
The team at Olliers can assist with not only reviewing the evidence presented by the police but also collating your evidence to rebut the same, including witness statements, character references and medical evidence, where appropriate. We will ensure that the evidence presented gives you the strongest possible case to have your certificates and guns returned.
The appeal should be heard by a full-time Circuit Judge, usually sitting with 2 lay magistrates. The appeal will be determined on the merits of the case as of the day of the hearing and it is not a review of the original decision to revoke. As such the Judge and their colleagues are entitled to hear any evidence which the police and you as the appellant choose to put forward in support of the case and they will decide the matter accordingly.
What funding is available?
Legal aid is not available in such cases. Olliers can accept instructions on a fixed fee basis or on an hourly rate basis. If you have a policy of insurance with legal expenses cover then we can work with the insurance provider so that you can use your chosen representative at Olliers. If you are unsure as to whether your policy covers you then we are happy to assist you and look into this for you.
How can Olliers help me if I face revocation of a firearm/shotgun certificate?
In our experience, the approach taken by Firearms Licensing Departments up and down the country is inconsistent and at times incomprehensible. Those with personal firearms and shotgun certificates and even Registered Firearms Dealers, are becoming an increasingly “easy target” for inexperienced, poorly resourced and at times over-zealous licensing departments.
It is, therefore, essential that if you are subject to refusal, revocation or even worse, criminal investigation, you get legal advice and assistance from those who understand the wider issues faced by the shooting fraternity, therefore please do get in touch. Our experts have represented many businesses and individuals in both criminal and licensing matters, including members of the British Association of Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and the United Kingdom Practical Shooting Association (UKPSA).
Please contact us on 0161 8341515 (Manchester) or 020 3883 6790 (London) or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange representation.
Firearms: Case Study
Olliers Partner, Gareth Martin, acted in a successful application which could have seen our client potentially imprisoned for at least 5 years.
Click here to read the Registered Firearms Dealer (RFD) case study.
I am writing to express my deepest gratitude and appreciation for the exceptional legal support and guidance you provided me during the firearms legal battle with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Your expertise, dedication, and unwavering commitment to my case have left an indelible impression on me, and I am immensely grateful for your efforts.
From the moment I reached out, you exhibited a level of professionalism and competence that immediately put my mind at ease. Your ability to navigate the complexities of the legal system with such finesse was truly remarkable. Your knowledge of firearms legislation and your insightful approach to the case gave me confidence that I was in capable hands.
Throughout the entire process, you were not only my solicitor but also my advocate. Your unwavering support and genuine concern for my well-being were evident in every interaction we had. You patiently listened to my concerns, answered my questions, and provided clear explanations of the legal proceedings, ensuring that I had a thorough understanding of my rights and options.
Your dedication to seeking justice on my behalf was evident when it was revealed that the police had committed an abuse of process. Your meticulous attention to detail and your ability to uncover crucial evidence were instrumental in exposing the injustice I had endured. Your tireless efforts in preparing the case and presenting it with conviction undoubtedly played a pivotal role in our favourable outcome.
Beyond your professional skills, I was deeply touched by your kindness, empathy, and genuine care for my well-being. Facing a legal battle is undoubtedly a stressful and daunting experience, but you were always there to offer reassurance and support, going above and beyond your professional duties.
Your belief in my innocence and your determination to fight for justice have left an everlasting impact on my life. I am extremely grateful for your dedication and hard work, which resulted in a positive resolution to what was an incredibly distressing situation for me and my family.
Your professionalism and support were instrumental in the success of my case, and I am sincerely grateful.
Once again, I want to express my deepest gratitude for your exceptional legal representation and continued support throughout this challenging period. You have restored my faith in the legal system and reaffirmed my belief in the power of justice. I will forever be indebted to you for your outstanding service.
Wishing you continued success and fulfillment in your legal career.
With sincerest gratitude.