From Wednesday 15 October police forces in England and Wales will be taking part in an initiative to ensure firearms are being kept and stored securely. New Home Office guidance allows the police to make unannounced visits to check on the security arrangements of certificate holders under certain circumstances. The police do not have any new powers of entry.
The new Home Office guidance states that:
“Where it is judged necessary, based on specific intelligence in light of a particular threat, or risk of harm, the police may undertake an unannounced home visit to check the security of a certificate holder’s firearms and shotguns. It is not expected that the police will undertake an unannounced home visit at an unsocial hour unless there is a justified and specific requirement to do so on the grounds of crime prevention or public safety concerns and the police judge that this action is both justified and proportionate.
"It is recognised that there is no new power of entry for police or police staff when conducting home visits. To mitigate any misunderstanding on the part of the certificate holder the police must provide a clear and reasoned explanation to the certificate holder at the time of the visit.”
BASC is advising members to ensure their security arrangements are up to standard. The police are required to provide a clear and reasoned explanation to the certificate holder at the time of the visit. BASC members should be left in no doubt as to why the visit is being made. The police do not have an automatic statutory right of entry but BASC recommends a sensible and cooperative approach to this type of situation.
It is possible that the reason for visiting may not be specifically about the certificate holder but may relate to other factors such as local rural or urban crime. There is an expectation of elementary cooperation from certificate holders following a reasonable request to check the security of your firearms.
If BASC members feel that any visit has not been undertaken properly they should first draw this to the attention of the local force; clearly stating the reasons why they believe this to be the case. BASC, on behalf of its members, will challenge robustly any police force which does not follow the Home Office guidelines.
A crime-stoppers line will also be launched for anyone with concerns about firearms security or about sudden changes in behaviour of certificate holders. However, BASC does not believe this is necessary or appropriate. BASC will be monitoring this closely.
BASC chief executive Richard Ali said: “BASC supports the police in their efforts to help firearms certificate holders maintain the excellent record of safety and security in England and Wales. Where there is specific intelligence of threat, risk or harm then the police should act. This guidance provides that framework and ensures that the police provide a clear and reasoned explanation to the certificate holder at the time of the visit.”
For BASC’s guidance on firearms security, click here: http://basc.org.uk/firearms/firearm-shotgun-security-what-do-you-do/