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Northern Ireland. 2005 ‘Referees.’ Guidance on Northern Ireland Firearms Controls 2005; Part II (Article 4), pp. 8-9. Belfast: Northern Ireland Assembly. 1 February

Relevant contents

Referees

2. A referee may be of any background or occupation but must not be a police officer, a member of the police support staff or a firearms dealer (but see paragraph 4). He must be of good character and someone on whom the police may rely to give honest replies to the questions contained on the referee form. He is not required to guarantee the applicant's good behaviour. The term firearms dealer is defined in Article 2(2).

3. Relatives of the applicant may not act as referees. The term "relative" is defined in Article 2(2).

4. If the Chief Constable is satisfied that the application is for the grant of a firearm certificate for a firearm for use for target shooting, one of the referees must be an official of the authorised firearms club specified in the application. In these circumstances, that referee may be a firearms dealer or a police officer or a member of the police support staff who has known the applicant personally for at least one year. The other referee must satisfy the requirements described in paragraph 1(c) above and must not be a member of any firearms club. Advice on authorised firearms clubs can be found in the guidance on Articles 49-51. The term "firearms club" is defined in Article 2(2).

5. The referees are required to verify that the information provided by the applicant is correct. Each must also endorse one of the photographs in the manner required by the Chief Constable and sign the endorsement…

7. The judgement as to whether a person is fit to be entrusted with a firearm rests in law with the police and, ultimately, with the Courts. The role of the referee is to provide information and opinions that the police can take into consideration when making that judgement. Referees are not expected to offer an "expert" opinion, regardless of their backgrounds. In particular, doctors acting as referees should do so on a personal basis rather than as medical professionals and they should not be expected to offer any medical opinion as to the applicant's mental state or likely future behaviour. Doctors would not, in these circumstances, be expected to charge a fee for acting as referees.

8. The referee must have known the applicant personally for at least two years. During this period the referee should have had a reasonable amount of contact with the applicant, whether in a professional, business or social context. A referee need not have any knowledge of firearms or shooting sports but he should be able to comment on the applicant's general character and background.

9. The term "good character" is not legally defined and may include people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

10. As the role of the referee is to offer advice to the police on the applicant's fitness to possess firearms, the police should be satisfied that the referee is honest and reliable and can be trusted to offer a fair and sensible view of the applicant. The police will also wish to consider whether a potential referee has criminal convictions (an assessment will have to be made in the individual circumstances taking account of the offences and when they took place), is of intemperate habits or unsound mind or has ever had a firearm certificate revoked on the ground that he was unfit. A referee should be open to an assessment of his good character by the police.

11. The police may contact a referee to discuss the information that he has provided on the reference form or any other matter relating to the application. If the police consider that a referee is unacceptable they will ask the applicant to put forward an alternative one. A person might, for example, satisfy the statutory requirements to act as a referee but be unacceptable because he has insufficient personal knowledge of the applicant to provide an informed reference. The Chief Constable cannot consider an application for a firearm certificate unless the nominated referees meet the requirements in respect of personal knowledge and good character. In such cases the application form, photographs and fee will be retained for 21 days pending receipt of the new referee form, after which time they will be returned, if no reply has been received.

12. The Firearms Order provides no right of appeal where the police consider that a nominated referee does not meet the requirements. If the referee meets these requirements, the police may not reject the reference, though they may of course take into account its adequacy in deciding whether to grant a certificate.

[PSNI = Police Service of Northern Ireland]

ID: Q6845

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