Where is the Home Office Response to the Plymouth Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths Report? Bereaved Families are still waiting.

by on 09-05-2023

The inquest into the deaths of five people shot by a licensed gun owner in Keyham, Plymouth, exposed multiple ‘catastrophic failings’ in Firearms Licensing. The Prevention of Future Deaths Report, written in March by the local Senior Coroner, was a damning indictment of the UK firearms licensing process. His conclusions were clear: firearms licensing is broken, radical change is needed, and, unless there is urgent action to prevent future deaths, it is likely that there will be further innocent victims.

Many of the Coroner’s recommendations had been proposed previously after other tragedies involving licensed gunmen, but they were resisted by shooters’ organisations and/or ignored by governments. Had these changes been implemented, the Plymouth families, and other bereaved families, would probably not have lost their loved ones.

  • It is over 26 years since Lord Cullen recommended significant improvements to the licensing process following the Dunblane Primary School shootings in 1996.
  • It is now nearly 8 years since HM Inspectorate of Constabulary published the report ‘Targeting the Risk’ after the fatal shootings of three women in Horden, Co. Durham, and two women in Farnham, Surrey. The Report’s recommendations included independent scrutiny of licensing decisions and a warning that if change were not implemented there would be another tragedy.
  • Four years ago, after the inquest into the Farnham deaths, the Surrey Coroner issued a PFD Report which also warned that the absence of a mandatory accredited training scheme for Firearms Enquiry Officers would result in incorrect decision making and future deaths.

Urgent action is essential. Home Office Ministers were asked to respond to the Coroner’s Report within 56 days, yet that time has elapsed and we are still waiting. It is imperative that once the response does come it involves immediate and significant changes to the licensing system.

1. All lethal guns must be brought into Section 1 of the 1968 Firearms Act. Shotguns are as lethal as rifles and should be subject to the same rigorous licensing. Applicants must prove their suitability and have good reason for each and every gun.

2. ‘Full cost recovery’ for firearms licencing must be ensured and the public subsidy of shooters’ licence applications ended. Applicants must meet the full cost of a more thorough and robust licensing process.

3. Household members and significant others should be consulted about an applicant’s suitability to own a gun.

4. There must be independent scrutiny of licensing decisions.

Gill Marshall-Andrews, Chair of the Gun Control Network, says:

“The 56 days are up and so far there has been no word from the Government about how they will respond to the coroner’s recommendations. It will be easy for them to do a little tinkering with the system or announce another ‘consultation’, but we need more than that. We need clear thinking and a willingness to confront shooting interests. The Home Office knows very well what should be done. Shooters have had far too much sway over firearms policy for far too long. Public safety should be prioritized now.”

Gun Control Network email: guncontrolnetwork@gmail.com