An audio feature on BBC Radio today reports that a group calling itself the Infer Trust is objecting to a graphic depicting a rifle being used as an emoji on smartphones. But who is behind the Infer Trust and can it really be said to represent anything other than its sole active member’s personal prejudices?
Before we get into the whos and whats, it’s worth noting that outside of the police, there is no organised anti-shooting lobby in Britain. What organised opposition there is comes from two individuals whose lives seem to have been given their sole purpose by the 1997 pistol ban.
The most well-known of Britain’s two anti-shooting organisations is the Gun Control Network. This consists of one active member, Gill Marshall-Andrews, and three lapsed ones: Gill’s husband Bob, formerly a socialist Labour MP; Peter Squires, a researcher from Brighton University; and Christine “Chrissie” Hall.
Hall and Gill Marshall-Andrews both worked together on the Snowdrop Campaign, which succeeded in getting pistols banned in the UK in 1997 as a kneejerk response to the Dunblane murders. The murderer, Thomas Hamilton, should have had his firearms certificate revoked by Central Scotland Police but the force failed to act on repeated warnings from his own shooting clubs and others. Indeed, a deputy chief constable overruled a junior officer’s decision to revoke Hamilton’s firearms certificate, thus arming a man thought to be unsuited to possess firearms by those who shared range space with him, in addition to ignoring repeated, credible accusations of his having a paedophilic interest in young boys. The police’s failure to enforce and uphold the law in face of direct warnings that they had got it wrong led to the avoidable murders of an entire class of toddlers and their teacher. Despite knowing all this the Snowdrop Campaign blamed the licensed firearms community for the murders, successfully diverting public attention away from the lethal police failures.
Does the Infer Trust have any financial backers?
According to the Charity Commission website, the Infer Trust was incorporated on the 19th January 2000. Its income in financial year 2014 was a whopping £1, contrasting sharply with a declared income of £1,500 in the year 2010. Its spending over the last five years for which accounts are available suggest that its trustees have allowed the Infer Trust’s spending to overtake its income, as its position based on the last five years’ income and outgoings seems to indicate a net expenditure of £210 – though no figures are given for cash at hand or other assets.
The DueDil company profiling website claims that the Infer Trust’s latest accounts revealed a cash balance of £63, which the site appears to say is the sum total of its registered assets.
Who is behind the Infer Trust?
The Infer Trust has four trustees: the aforementioned Gill Marshall-Andrews; Chrissie Hall; a Mrs Georgina Mortimer, who is also linked to a charity called “Action Around Bethlehem Children with Disability”; and a Dr Michael James North, who UKSN has been informed is probably Mick North, a widower who lost his daughter at Dunblane. Other individuals linked to the Infer Trust, as former trustees, include: Trevor Norris, a 47-yr-old lecturer of Lambeth; a Professor Ian Roger Taylor of Bristol, who spent a year as a trustee immediately after the charity was incorporated; and one Linda Mitchell of Sunderland, who served as a trustee between 2008 and 2009 and who gave her occupation as “head trainer”.
The contact address on the Charity Commission website is given as what appears to be Georgina Mortimer’s home address on Park View Road, N3, London, an exclusive and expensive leafy suburban street near to Ealing Broadway railway station.
However, a LinkedIn page for the Infer Trust which references the charity’s website gives another private residential address, this time for Marchmont Gardens, Richmond, TW10. A Google search on that address turns up an automatically generated company profile page which suggests that that is the Marshall-Andrews’ home address.
Clearly, from the repeated uses of home addresses in official documents, the Infer Trust is not a particularly active organisation. But does it represent anyone other than its four trustees – and, crucially, do they know what they’re talking about?
Website last updated six years ago
The Infer Trust website carries a prominent statement that it was made by Marshall-Andrews Ltd; no prizes for guessing who controls that company.
On the website are several headings, including one labelled “Gun Law”. This claims there are “three major Firearms Acts in current use” along with the Violent Crime Reduction Act.
In fact, as the Law Commission recently acknowledged in their consultation paper CP224, there are almost 100 Acts of Parliament and binding court decisions (precedents) dealing with firearms in English law, of which 34 alone are statutes. Whoever wrote the statement on the Infer Trust website clearly has little or no knowledge of the highly regulated licensed firearms sector.
Also, the charity’s webpage titled “gun misuse” appears to have last been updated in 2009. Moreover, there are no links to the articles they purport to cite, meaning there is no way for a casual reader to assess the accuracy or veracity of the excerpts presented on that page.
Overall: A minority pressure group less representative than the average parish council
The Infer Trust does not appear to do any serious work in the field for which it has registered itself with the Charity Commission. This BBC radio appearance aside, it does not appear, from a Google search of the charity’s name, to have featured in any other media outlet at all this year. Its poor financial position suggests it is winding down, perhaps soon to disappear in ignominious failure.
How it has escaped the Charity Commission’s scrutiny, or even secured registration, escapes UKSN’s author. It is to be hoped that media bookers and the like read this page and refuse to give this tiny single-issue pressure group the dignity of airtime or column inches. It betrays a clear ignorance of its core topic through false statements made on its website; its trustees’ personal views on shooting issues are no better than vox pops about Man City by United supporters.