If your certificate expires before a new one arrives you can only continue shooting and buying cartridges if the police have issued you with a Section 7 permit.
By David Frost
Tuesday, 31 January 2012
Delays on the part of police in issuing shotgun certificates, renewals and variations are unacceptable and should not be tolerated by gun owners.
Unhappy with the service you get from your police licencing department? If so, don’t suffer in silence – COMPLAIN!
Too many gun owners mistakenly believe the police will find some way of getting their own back if they’re taken to task for giving poor service. This is not the case.
My experience is that complaining eventually gets the right result even though the police may wriggle a bit in the process.
One Deputy Chief Constable assured me the police couldn’t get their act together well enough to do this anyway! And an Assistant Chief Constable told me that any member of staff found to be victimising certificate holders would be disciplined.
We’ve recently highlighted some of the firearms licencing problems encountered by Sporting Gun readers living in West Mercia but WM is not the only force giving sub-standard service.
Readers have also reported Gloucestershire, Kent and Hampshire as being under-par performers, and I know from other sources that poor service is commonplace in many forces.
The Association of Chief Police Officers itself acknowledges there are inefficiencies in the system but seems unable to sort them out.
GOOD OR BAD?
How do you know if the service you are getting is below standard? Try measuring it against the following: You should get a renewal reminder from the police 10-12 weeks before your certificate expires.
The reminder is not a legal requirement but it is good practice.
Provided you return your correctly completed paperwork 6-8 weeks before expiry then your certificate should be renewed on time.
If you’re applying for an initial grant, allow about 8 weeks and for a variation 2-3 weeks. Anything outside this merits a complaint.
The renewal letter may contain signs that you’re going to be disappointed. The first is a demand that you return your expiring certificate.
This is not a legal requirement and you should always politely refuse or ignore such a request.
Only poor police forces make this demand. The second, more serious sign, is a sentence saying it will be OK for you to keep guns even if the certificate is not renewed in time.
This statement has no legal validity whatsoever and effectively the police are encouraging you to break the law.
The only way you may lawfully retain your guns without a current certificate is if the police have issued a Section 7 permit.
They claim that issuing this takes as long as issuing a certificate. Well they’re wrong, it doesn’t.
Home Office guidance clearly states that Section 7 permits should be issued if there are delays in renewal which are beyond the applicant’s control. If you think you may find yourself in this situation you should enclose a covering letter with your application making clear you will require a Section 7 permit if the renewal is not on time.
WHO TO COMPLAIN TO?
Don’t mess about, go straight to the top – and that means the Chief Constable.
You can find a name and address on the force website, usually at the foot of some pious statement about the high standard of service his force supposedly delivers.
Write to the CC personally. Keep the letter short (not more than one page of A4), courteous and to the point.
Don’t waffle, stick to the facts. Make it clear you expect both an answer and some action.
A letter to the Chief Constable usually does the trick but sometimes the reply will be delegated to a minion who may try to wriggle.
If you don’t get a satisfactory answer – along with your certificate - take things a stage further.
Either write to, or visit, your Member of Parliament. A visit to the constituency surgery is best, but a letter will do.
Again, keep it short and factual. MPs work on the basis that one letter is a problem but ten letters are a crisis, so get any friends who have experienced the same as you to write as well.
One of the key things to include in a letter or bring up at the meeting is a request that the MP raises your concerns with the Home Secretary and ask for an assurance that things will be sorted out.
This forces the Home Office to write to the Chief Constable asking for an explanation.
It’s time consuming and no bureaucrat likes to be on the receiving end of a Parliamentary Question.
If enough folk complain the message will eventually get through.
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