Citation(s) from the GunPolicy.org literature library

UK. 2013 ‘Domestic Violence.’ Guide on Firearms Licensing Law. London: Home Office. 31 July

Relevant contents

Domestic Violence - This will form part of Chapter 12 of the Firearms Guide

Domestic violence and abuse

1. When considering applications for the grant or renewal of firearm/shotgun certificates particular attention should be paid to domestic incidents, specifically violence and patterns of behaviour by the applicant which give cause for concern. (See below for the definition of domestic violence and abuse.) An incident of domestic violence taking place should trigger a need for police to review whether the certificate holder can be permitted to possess the firearm or shotgun without causing a danger to public safety or to the peace.

2. In general evidence (including a history) of domestic violence and abuse will indicate that an individual should not be permitted to possess a firearm or shotgun. Each case must be assessed by the police on its merits, on the basis of the strength of the evidence available and all the circumstances of the case.

Applications

3. Background checks will always be carried out on applicants to assess their fitness to possess a firearm. These checks should encompass local information as well as checks on national databases. Where there is information indicating domestic violence and abuse, wider interviews or enquiries should be considered with a range of family, friends or associates of the applicant prior to issue or renewal of a firearm/shotgun certificate. Those interviewed need not be confined to those persons put forward by the applicant. The police response should be proportionate to the risk involved and care must be taken to consider every case on its merits.

4. Interviews with partners who may be victims of domestic violence may be judged essential to making a complete assessment of an application. Such interviews need to be conducted with sensitivity, and officers must take into account that a victim of domestic violence may be unwilling to speak openly with the police for fear of further violence or reprisals. Information provided during interview must be treated as confidential. Officers must have received adequate training so that they are aware of the indicators of domestic abuse, and how to support victims and keep them safe. They should be aware that there may be a need to take active steps to protect an applicant's partner from reprisals. This is particularly important in the event that the partner is interviewed in connection with the application and provides information which leads to a refusal or revocation since the applicant might blame their partner and resort to violence.

5. An applicant's partner is not required to give approval for the issue of the firearm or shotgun certificate and this should be made clear to them. The responsibility lies with the police to make the decision based on all the evidence available. Similarly, the police will assess evidence provided by other family members, friends or associates of the applicant where this is considered to be necessary.

6. Police domestic violence/public protection units should be consulted and multi-agency liaison may be necessary to properly assess whether the applicant can hold a firearm or shotgun without danger to public safety or the peace.

7. Chief officers need not rely only on convictions when considering the suitability of applicants to possess firearms without danger to public safety or the peace. In particular chief officers should be aware that they can take hearsay evidence into account and not have to rely directly on spouses/partners when considering domestic related incidents. Hearsay evidence could include the evidence of police officers attending scenes of domestic incidents.

8. Conduct which has not resulted in a conviction can be considered. For example, a bind over may be relevant, particularly if in relation to a partner or a former partner. Evidence falling short of a conviction (e.g. police intelligence, which has not been tested in the criminal court and proved beyond reasonable doubt) should be treated with caution and an assessment made by chief officers of police as to what weight should be attached to it. In each case the police must ensure a fair process by analysing how recent the incident was and whether it should be viewed as an isolated incident or part of an ongoing pattern. They should conduct an assessment of future risk based on all of the evidence.

9. Information from GPs, especially an indication of alcohol or drug abuse, or mental health issues may indicate that an applicant is not fit to possess a firearm. Consideration may be given to requesting the medical records of spouses, partners or family members (with their consent) if there is concern over previous domestic violence or abuse.

10. It should be noted, however, that in the event of challenge a court is likely to attribute less weight to hearsay or other evidence short of a conviction than to direct evidence which can be tested under cross-examination. The chief officer must therefore make a judgement about the reliability and credibility of hearsay evidence before relying upon it to refuse or revoke a certificate.

ID: Q7166

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