Monthly Archives: January 2015

Hartlepool hunter’s guns seized after severed fox head Facebook pic uproar

A Hartlepool man has had his lawfully-owned firearms seized after animal rights campaigners seized on a Facebook picture of a severed fox’s head on a stick.

According to the Hartlepool Mail, Mark Lowery, a 44-yr-old who “regularly carries out pest control work for local farmers”, cut off the dead animal’s head before he “put its head on a stick above an abusive note to animal cruelty protesters, and then photographed it before uploading it to Facebook.”

Lowery told the Mail he wanted to “antagonise them and carry out a social experiment which worked, as it has shown the anti-hunt campaigners to be the nasty, horrible people that they are”.

He says he has since received death threats to himself, his family and his own pets, which prompted him to alert the police. Lowery added to the newspaper: “I’ve had credible threats of violence and death threats and I phoned the police about it on Tuesday afternoon. They have taken my guns for my own safe-keeping until the situation calms down.”

“The fox was road kill,” he added. “It was dead and had been dead for at least 24 hours because I could tell by the feel of its body. I’ve handled dead animals since I was about 11 years old, and from doing work in an abattoir, in commercial butchery.”

A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: “Inquiries are continuing. Officers have seized a number of legally-held firearms from a 44-year-old male and we are looking into his suitability to continue as a firearms licence holder. No arrests have been made.”

Previous reports in the Hartlepool Mail and the Northern Echo indicate that Lowery seems to have posted the picture of the fox head along with a sign, in the same photo, reading “Dear anti c*nts. You were warned!” Lowery is previously said to have posted the statement “I keep my promises, 1 ban = 1 fox” after apparently having his Facebook account suspended after animal rights activists misused a ‘report spam’ style function to trigger an automatic ban.

The RSPCA has also become involved in the case. It is not known what, if anything, they intend to do to Lowery.

Editor’s comment

Lowery’s actions seem to have been provoked by a Facebook campaign against him by animal rights campaigners. Exactly what happened between him and them in the runup to this picture being posted isn’t exactly clear – but seems to have involved a fair degree of tit-for-tat online exchanges.

Posting the picture of the fox’s head on Facebook along with the taunting message doesn’t help Lowery’s case. In your correspondent’s personal view, it’s crass, to use a mild term of condemnation. It’s one thing to be passionate about your sport or livelihood and to defend it against the attacks of hunt saboteurs and their fellow travellers – but quite another to start figuratively waving dead animal parts under their noses. You aren’t going to win people over to the cause by antagonising them.

Regarding the police involvement, it seems Lowery called the police when the online threats escalated and spread to involve his family, friends and pets. Animal rights extremists have form when it comes to threats – even going to the point of digging up people’s dead grandmothers and stealing their remains from graveyards. It’s not entirely surprising, therefore, that Cleveland Police “seized” his firearms. Whether Lowery handed his firearms over voluntarily, was coerced into doing so by the police or whether they obtained a court warrant is not known.

The pragmatic side of me hopes the police statements about investigating Lowery’s suitability to own firearms are just paying lip service, intended to calm the animal rights mob down. The realistic side of me thinks he may have jeopardised his firearm certificate by calling the police. On the flip side, it hardly bears thinking about the consequences if animal rights extremists turned up mob-handed at Lowery’s home, broke in and secured access to his gun cabinet.

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RFD to stand trial over ‘prohibited weapon’ allegations

A registered firearms dealer specialising in deactivated firearms will stand trial over allegations he was in unlawful possession of prohibited weapons.

According to a press release from the Metropolitan Police:

Raymond Mills, 69, an antiques dealer of Pinnocks Avenue, Gravesend was charged on Wednesday, 7 January, with three counts of possession of a prohibited weapon (firearms) and one count of selling a primer to another.

He appears in custody at Bromley Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, 8 January.

He was arrested on Tuesday, 6 January, following execution of a firearms search warrant at an address in Pinnocks Avenue, Gravesend.

Mills appeared in custody at Bromley Magistrates’ Court on the 8th January, where the magistrates sent his case – number 1500053931 – for trial to Woolwich Crown Court. No date has yet been set.

Mills traded as RD & A Mills Services, operating the website raymills.co.uk. The site is no longer available, although a summary available at a third-party website says:

My main areas of expertise are deactivated & obsolete calibre firearms but I also have a large amount of other militaria, memorabilia & other accessories ranging from modern to World War two, as well as specialising in inert ammunition.

Editor’s comment

Automatic reporting restrictions mean little more can be said about the specifics of this case – including speculation – until it reaches Crown court and both sides begin making their cases before a jury.

The definition of an antique firearm is occasionally the matter of debate, but is generally taken as any firearm chambered for any of the calibres on this list, the original of which is maintained by the Home Office. Readers are cautioned that the list at that link is not authoritative and may have been superseded. It is included here for information only.

Antique firearms are exempt from the usual controls on firearms (requirement for a certificate, the pistol ban, etc) thanks to section 58 of the Firearms Act 1968.

A copy of the actual charge sheet would reveal whether Mills has been charged with unlawful possession of pistols, semi- or fully-automatic firearms. No such copy is publicly available, and as this is, after all, an unpaid blog, the author is not minded to pester the courts for one.

Home Office Firearms Guidance ‘ignores case law’

A key Home Office document on firearms law appears to ignore a court decision that goes against a government ban on certain types of club gun, it has emerged.

The Guide on Firearms Licensing Law 2014, most recently updated in October last year, contains this provision on the use of long-barrelled pistols (LBPs) as club firearms:

It should also be noted that section 15(1) of the 1988 Act, as amended, does not apply to the use of long barrelled pistols or section 1 shotguns used for target shooting

This sentence appears to contradict the outcome of the case R v Wells (2010), where Mike Wells, secretary of the Sportsman’s Association, was unsuccessfully prosecuted for transferring a Browning Buckmark LBP onto Kensington Rifle & Pistol Club’s firearm certificate (FAC).

The Met Police claimed that the Buckmark was not a “rifle” and so could not be held on the FAC of a club approved for target shooting with rifles. Wells was cleared, and later wrote in the July 2013 edition of the Sportsman’s Association newsletter:

The jury were asked whether the Browning was a rifle or a pistol. The jury agreed it was a rifle. I was acquitted.

Home Office-approved rifle clubs are given permission by the government to take part in target shooting activities with smallbore rifles, fullbore rifles or muzzle-loading pistols. It is the police and Home Office position that anything which does not fall within these categories cannot be held as a club firearm or shared in the same way that club firearms can be.

Editor’s notes

If I was doing this professionally I’d get a comment from the Home Office on this – which would probably deny there was anything wrong with the guidance – and seek a “professional” comment from a firearms lawyer, who may or may not say that I’m talking complete cobblers to the extent where this wouldn’t even get published.

As this is a blog and I’m writing it in a few slack moments at lunchtime, however, none of those distinguishing features are present. Take it as you will.

It is worth noting that as R v Wells was not an appeal case, the judge’s decision is not a binding piece of case law. Nothing in this blog constitutes legal advice, either.

UK Shooting News – welcome

This site is dedicated to news about the British shooting sports, firearms retail industry and legal developments, written by a shooter (and full-time journalist) for fellow shooters.

At the moment the site is purely a hobby, with irregular posts on things that catch the author’s eye. Leave a comment if you’ve got a tipoff about something interesting.