A number of lawfully owned firearms have been seized from a certificate holder by police following allegations of a brawl and claims that a gun had been fired.
The Birmingham Mail – owned by the same newspaper group which operates the Daily Mirror – reported yesterday that police were called to Poultney Street, West Bromwich, at about 4pm on Friday. Four arrests were made, including that of a 43-year-old man on suspicion of a firearms offence and a 33-yr-old woman on suspicion of wounding with intent. Two men, aged 21 and 24, were arrested on suspicion of committing public order offences. A police spokesman told the Daily Mail that none of the arrested people were treated in hospital.
Some public order offences can only be committed in a public place – but others can be committed in private, meaning the exact location of the alleged brawl is unclear.
It appears that ordinary beat bobbies from the Sandwell area were dispatched to the “brawl”, and that those beat bobbies evidently had no idea that a firearm certificate holder lived at the house in question. One of the police employees used an official Twitter account in a highly unprofessional manner to express his personal opinions on the situation:
A good haul by D unit today, multiple weapons seized from an address and taken off the street. pic.twitter.com/kwGKuZfSyg
— SW Response (@SWresponse) June 19, 2015
Yes these were from only 1 house not sure how he has been able to select such a haul? — SW Response (@SWresponse) June 20, 2015
UK Shooting News reproduces those police opinions purely for illustration. The defendants are innocent unless proven guilty and those statements above contradict that (see UKSN comment below).
A West Midlands Police spokeswoman told the Daily Mail: “Enquiries are ongoing into an allegation that a firearm had been discharged. A number of shotguns and small calibre rifles were seized from the property. All of the firearms are believed to be legitimately owned and licenced.”
It can be seen from the picture that 12 guns were seized by police, including airguns, what appears to be section 1 and section 2 shotguns, and a couple of rifles.
It is completely unacceptable for on-duty police employees to express personal views on active legal proceedings (proceedings are considered active under contempt of court law from the moment of arrest) much less to use official social media accounts to broadcast those views as if they were fact. The statements made by police could well engage problems with contempt of court, if the case proceeds to Crown court and is heard before a jury, and could even jeopardise any later trial on the grounds of unfairness. The statements made by the police employee have clearly been seen and responded to by locals and tainted the defendants’ conduct in their minds prior to the controlled environment of the court.
Claiming that lawfully-held guns were “taken off the street” strongly implies that the licensed FAC and SGC holder living in Poultney Street was using his firearms in an unlawful manner, which is defamatory. It is one thing to arrest on suspicion of lawbreaking – that is what we pay the police to do – but quite another to make a statement that someone was breaking the law before they’re even charged with committing an offence, much less tried and convicted.
The strongest defence against this type of defamation is justification; showing that the defamed person really did break the law in the manner implied. If there is any joined-up thinking going on at West Midlands Police, they’re now bound to take the case against the FAC holder all the way to trial and to seek a retrial if there’s a “not guilty” verdict, otherwise things could get expensive for them.
Moreover, the words “how was he able to select such a haul” betrays an interesting failure of internal processes at West Midlands Police. The licensed firearms community is constantly told by police that we are kept under 24/7 surveillance. We are told that it is necessary for our addresses to be constantly notified to police with the intent of placing privacy and security-busting “markers” on our police and medical records. Supposedly this is so any public sector employee visiting an FAC/SGC holder’s home is warned in advance that a “gun-toting madman” (sarcasm) lives there.
Yet in the one plausible use-case for all this surveillance (allegation of gun being fired at gun owner’s house), it seems the local plod had no idea what was going on and have even questioned how someone with a police-issued certificate was able to lawfully buy and store a number of firearms. Although armed police were dispatched as well as the local Keystones, the latter were either kept out of the loop – or hold views about gun ownership that are incompatible with the fair and impartial treatment of licensed firearms owners.