Powers to seize a lawfully held shotgun or firearm from a certified holder?

20 September 2021

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question:

We often get asked what the lawful powers are to seize a shotgun or firearm from a certified holder in certain situations.

For example when a domestic situation is reported to the police and there is a time delay, some police powers would not be appropriate, e.g. two days after a domestic, where no arrests have been made but a threat may exist if guns are not retrieved and the licences have not been revoked by a licensing manager.

Answer:

It is our opinion in the circumstances you mention that officers will only be able to seize legally held firearms if the certificate has been revoked or if the weapon has been used in consequence of an offence.

Revoking Certificate

Section 30A provides for the revocation of a firearm certificate.

'30A(2) The certificate may be revoked if the chief officer of police has reason to believe

(a) that the holder is of intemperate habits or unsound mind or is otherwise unfitted to be entrusted with a firearm; or

(b) that the holder can no longer be permitted to have the firearm or ammunition to which the certificate relates in his possession without danger to the public safety or to the peace.

30A(3) The certificate may be revoked if the chief officer of police is satisfied that the holder is prohibited by this Act from possessing a firearm to which section 1 of this Act applies.

30A(4) The certificate may be revoked if the chief officer of police is satisfied that the holder no longer has a good reason for having in his possession, or for purchasing or acquiring, the firearm or ammunition which he is authorised by virtue of the certificate to have in his possession or to purchase or acquire.'

Section 30C provides for the revocation of shot gun.

'30C(1) A shot gun certificate may be revoked by the chief officer of police for the area in which the holder resides if he is satisfied that the holder is prohibited by this Act from possessing a shot gun or cannot be permitted to possess a shot gun without danger to the public safety or to the peace.'

The guidance on firearms licensing can also be found below:

 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/firearms-law-guidance-to-the-police-2012

The guidance outlines that 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. 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.

We would recommend contacting your force licensing department as they should be able to advise if the circumstances could result in revoking a certificate. Please also note the case of Chief Constable of Essex Police v Campbell 2012 which outlined that circumstances of a violent domestic incident should be considered prior to a revocation of a firearms certificate. The court ruled that the chief constable was fully entitled to revoke the certificate on the sole ground that the defendant left the property in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident. Notably 'It is in the overwhelming public interest that the tightest control is exercised over those who possess firearms.'

Seizure

The powers of seizure under section 19 PACE allow a constable to seize property where the officer is lawfully on any premises.

A constable, lawfully on premises, may seize anything which is on the premises if he has reasonable grounds for believing that it has been obtained in consequence of the commission of an offence; and that it is necessary to seize it in order to prevent it being concealed, lost, damaged, altered or destroyed (see section 19(2)), or, if he has reasonable grounds for believing that it is evidence in relation to an offence which he is investigating or any other offence; and that it is necessary to seize it in order to prevent the evidence being concealed, lost, altered or destroyed (see section 19(3)).

The weapon may therefore only be seized it if it is used in commission of an offence or if the licence is revoked making possession of such an offence in itself.

Please note that although section 19 of PACE provides a power of seizure, it provides no power to search. If the gun is in plain sight, this could be seized. If an arrest is made however, there will be a power to search the premises and seize items under sections 18 and 32.

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