Citation(s) from the literature library

Northern Ireland. 2005 ‘Fitness to Be Entrusted With a Firearm.’ Guidance on Northern Ireland Firearms Controls 2005; Sections 2,-3, 5-6, 8-10, 13-15 (Appendix 2), pp. 79-82. Belfast: Northern Ireland Assembly. 1 February

Relevant contents

Fitness to Be Entrusted With a Firearm

Assessing fitness

2. The Chief Constable should, when considering an application for, or the revocation of, a firearm certificate, take into account the following factors -

Prohibited persons and others known to have, or suspected of having, criminal involvement.

3. The guidance on Article 63 describes restrictions on the possession of firearms by certain categories of persons convicted of crimes and given custodial sentences, including suspended sentences.

5. Criminal intelligence in relation to the applicant should be assessed with particular regard to alleged or known involvement in criminal offences, particularly those involving the use or threat of violence or firearms or evidence of association with known criminals.

6. When an applicant is a foreign national or has lived several years overseas the enquiries should be made with the authorities of the country concerned through Interpol as to whether the applicant has a criminal record overseas that would have a bearing on his fitness. This includes applicants from overseas who have been granted British citizenship.

Unsound mind

8. This is a particularly difficult and sensitive area and it is not possible to provide a definition that covers every eventuality. It is impractical for a psychiatric assessment to be conducted on every applicant's fitness to possess firearms. However, the Chief Constable should be alert to cases in which a General Practitioner's report reveals that an applicant has exhibited, or is exhibiting, signs of depression, suicidal tendencies, long-standing or intermittent periods of either emotional instability or unpredictable behaviour. The Chief Constable should also be alert to any of these signs exhibited by existing certificate holders. This would include persons who had been detained under the civil powers of the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 on the basis of their behaviour posing a risk to the public. Particular attention should be paid to anyone who has previously been subject to a hospital order, guardianship order or restriction order under the provisions of the Mental Health Act following the commission of offences. Although there is no correlation between periods of imprisonment and periods of detention under the Mental Health Act, it is important to examine the nature of the offences and the period of the order in these situations.

9. It is important to remember that simply because a person has received treatment in the past for certain illnesses or conditions, such as depression or stress, it does not automatically follow that he is unfit to possess a firearm. It is simply one of the factors to be considered with all other evidence relating to the applicant's character and history. In such cases, account should be taken of the latest medical opinion.

Safe-keeping and handling of firearms

10. Consideration should include any evidence that unauthorised persons, such as family members or associates, who may themselves present a danger to public safety, might have access to the firearms, notwithstanding any arrangements for their security which may have already been made. Any history of serious incidents involving firearms, including their loss, or a careless approach to the handling of other potentially dangerous items, should also receive close consideration. Where the latter exists, the police should consider the likelihood of repetition.

Further information

13. Where the applicant has previous convictions, or where information has cast doubts on his fitness, the Chief Constable should consider whether to approach agencies likely to have had involvement with him, such as the probation service or social services. The Chief Constable should ensure that the reason for the enquiry is to ascertain whether there is any further evidence that the person would be unfit to possess a firearm. Where an applicant's reason for possessing the firearm is shooting on a farm or at a club, for example, the Chief Constable should also consider whether to seek additional information from persons such as the relevant farmer or club secretary who may have close knowledge of the applicant's character. Where this is considered necessary, care should be taken not to divulge information about the applicant which is of a sensitive or confidential nature.

14. Where an applicant has declared on the application form that he has suffered from a mental or nervous disorder, including depression, and has given his consent to an approach being made to his General Practitioner (GP) or medical adviser, the GP should be asked in writing to provide factual details about the condition. The failure of a GP to provide such information should not in itself result in the refusal of an application. See also paragraphs 13 to 19 of the guidance on Article 4.

15. Decisions on fitness should be made on an assessment of all the relevant information and on the individual merits of each case. Evidence of previous convictions or intemperate behaviour, for example, might not result in an automatic refusal if, for a significant period since the conviction, the applicant has led a law-abiding life and shown a capacity to be entrusted to possess a firearm.

ID: Q6864

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