1 April 2016 – A Durham policeman has taken over national responsibility for firearms licensing, as police tighten their grip on the licensed firearms community.
A press release from BASC reveals that Assistant Chief Constable Dave Orford visited the association’s HQ, speaking to top BASC staff about “strategic licensing issues such as ten-year certificates, inconsistent performance and attitudes to risk across police forces in England and Wales.”
“By forging a strong working relationship with ACC Orford in his capacity as the national lead on police firearms licensing, as we enjoyed with his predecessor, Chief Constable Andy Marsh, we hope to be able to move the agenda forward and deliver a ten-year certificate,” said BASC chief exec Richard Ali.
ACC Orford said: “Learning about the different and diverse needs of the shooting community is vital in my role. I was really glad to be invited to BASC and reassured by their commitment to work with the police service.”
Durham has had a very chequered history when it comes to firearms licensing. They were the police force which was savaged by HM Coroner after re-arming Michael Atherton, who killed most of his extended family after having his shotguns returned to him despite being well known to the police following multiple complaints of domestic violence. The IPCC report – which, incidentally, contains errors of law* – can be viewed here (PDF).
One of the police constables who granted Atherton’s certificates was PC Damien Cobain, an FEO who was thrown out of the force for quietly selling on firearms handed in for destruction and pocketing the proceeds. His partner in crime was PC Maurice Allen, sacked in disgrace for the same offence. Both police employees received suspended prison sentences and kept their pensions – albeit heavily reduced by a court.
In an attempt to whitewash over the findings of the coroner, Durham enlisted Chief Constable Andy Marsh, the former national head of firearms licensing, to use a grieving relative of Atherton’s victims as a frontman to launch the infamous shop-a-gun owner hotlin, which cost the public £15,000.
The hotline was pulled after a furious public backlash, despite support from BASC at the time of its launch.
Since the Atherton murders Durham firearms licensing has become highly inefficient, with shooters there reporting huge delays in routine grants and variations.
The appointment of a Durham police employee to head up firearms licensing across the UK does not seem auspicious. The licensed firearms community is holding its breath to see whether he will oversee positive changes or whether he will remain complicit in inefficiency while blaming the law-abiding shooter for his departments’ failings.