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Published by TSRA Ltd

PO Box 3, Cardigan SA43 1BN

On line edition ISSN 2398-3329



Firearms Fees

News in Brief

Grace v DC – US court report

Prohibited Person Applications

Blair Grindle appeal

Firearms Statistics 2016

Mark Holmes Appeal

The Mac Ten Man

Scottish Air Guns


  • The Mint by T E Lawrence
  • Dead on Time by John McVicar
  • The battle to clear Barry George
  • by Mike Bourke 22
  • Justice for Jill, by Scott Lomax. 23


What really happened in Dallas? 25

Richard Law - EDITORIAL

The SRA is an organisation of two halves: founded in 1984 as a legal interest group monitoring government interest in firearms controls, all our founder members were shooters. Dick Baxter suggested mentioning battle re-enactment in our PLI policy: he was and still is active in an American Civil War group and thus emerged the second half, collectively ‘living history’.

Re-enactment got off to a shaky start with administrative obstruction on all sides. Many police forces opted to require re-enactment firearms held on certificates to have barrel obstructions to ‘prevent’ live ammunition being used. This was part of a wider policy of restricting a firearm solely to the ‘good reason’ for which it had been granted. Live ammunition shooters fared no better at the hands of the so-called public servants in firearms administration. The Met, for example, decided that there was no legal way to take a gun to a shoot. The firearm certificate condition said it had to be locked away at all times except when in actual use, which meant any attempt to take a firearm to a range would only avoid prosecution if undetected.

All such difficulties placed in the way of our social activities by bureaucrats have been overcome – and then replaced by new ones, as the firearms managers used to get together under the auspices of the defunct Association of Chief Police Officers to think up new ways of not doing their jobs. They were all hired, after all, to issue certificates to applicants. No other branch of bureaucracy has invested so much time and public money in searching for ways of avoiding doing the work they were hired for.

And there’s more to come: fed up with the courts not treated every law-abiding taxpayer dragged through them as the villain Home Office policy thinks they should be, they are in the process of changing the law. It’s a case of tearing up the rule books as established by Parliament and the courts over the past quarter century and replacing them with the rules they tried and failed to bring in by prosecuting certificate holders and dealers. Antiques, de-acs and component parts are in the process of being re-defined, although of more interest in the policing and crime bill is a clause that expects everyone to ‘have regard’ for Home Office guidance on firearms matters. Since that guidance is at times vague, at others doesn’t articulate the issue and elsewhere is just plain wrong, it’s going to get interesting.

Also of passing interest should be the attitude of the shooting organisations to all this. Britain has never had a ‘gun lobby’ per se: the organisations that make up the British Shooting Sports Council are governing bodies. They each have a constitution and rules and are thus governed by their members’ wishes and their members generally want their sport administered, scores recorded, medals issued. That leaves shooting organisations rather in the position of Cowslip’s warren in Watership Down: tolerant of the occasional empty chair, closed business or a membership subscription not renewed as long as it’s not theirs.

Which is where the SRA came in – back in 1984 with an interest in matters legal. So we’ll get on with that while you all enjoy the season. Last year, re-enactors experienced police checks of their de-acs against certificates at some shows. At some point this year, the new law rendering all de-acs to date ‘defectively deactivated’ will kick in. Essentially they are retrospectively being deemed ‘out of proof’ and can’t be sold until re-worked to the new European spec. But this is going to be much harsher than selling a real gun out of proof, as that’s a matter for the proof master to prosecute and his primary interest is in getting the fee for re-proofing it. With the police involved, it could become difficult, or it may pass, as have so many other attempts to crack down on the law abiding in hope of finding fault; such as the kitemarks for gun cabinets farce in the 1990s.

If this year is much marred, we suspect it will be how the shows manage that will make the difference. The trend seems to be toward venues getting dearer, which translates into higher pitch fees for exhibitors and the latter saving their money by not attending. The Midland Game Fair seemed hard hit last year and the year before: attendance was up, but the stall count declined. That hasn’t stopped them and although some of the smaller events have been cancelled this year, it’s still the case that we have lost more shows to adverse weather than to costs or negative legislation.

The SRA doesn’t exhibit, costs issue, but that doesn’t stop us attending without portfolio, so we might meet some of you as the season progresses. That is, when we’re not tracking the progress of the law’s conflict with your rights and privileges, not to mention your peaceful enjoyment of your possessions in your chosen social pastime.


The Home Office launched a consultation in January 2017 about the fees it intends to charge for the authority to possess prohibited weapons, the approval of rifle and loose ammunition pistol clubs and museum collections in anticipation of the authority to charge fees being vested in them by the completion of the Policing and Crime Bill currently before Parliament.

They have taken to calling these authorities ‘licenses’, although there has been no change in the law either to make them into licenses or to call them such.

The Home Office has issued prohibited weapons authorities under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 since 1973, when they took over the role from the Defence Council. Since then the category has been swollen to include some forty types of firearms and ammunition, as well as some products that are not firearms at all. An applicant has to prove his need to possess prohibited weapons separately for each category applied for. Some prohibited weapons are in more than one sub-category of section 5.

Prohibited weapons that are firearms are also subject to section 1(firearm certificate) control, so one requires either such a certificate or registration as a dealer as well as a section 5 authority to possess them. The Home Office propose a fee of £1,860 for a dealer to trade in prohibited weapons, with a £200 discount if an RFD is applied for at the same time, since all the checks for a section 5 are carried out by the police in the context of issuing the RFD apart from confirming the business or other need that the applicant has.

APPROVAL of rifle and loose ammunition pistol clubs currently costs £84. The Home Office propose charging £1,050 to grant a six-year ‘licence’ and £900 to renew it. The proposal document refers to shooting clubs as businesses and proposes a fee of £690 to change the address at which club firearms are stored, £470 to change the name on the club firearm certificate and £110 to alter the name of the club on their records.

This is quite bizarre, given that an officer of the club usually holds club firearms on a certificate, so a change of address involves the police amending the firearm certificate (for free) and the Home Office doing nothing for their proposed fee. Changing the named certificate holder is likewise entirely a police matter.

Some clubs are either part of a firearms dealership or are registered as dealers, whereupon a change of personnel involves the new owner applying to the police for an RFD, as they aren’t transferable. So what the Home Office is going to do for its money is opaque.

At the back of these proposed fees is that the Home Office have a full time department dedicated to these firearms matters, which is not very busy, so the exorbitant cost of staffing that is, in effect, being shared out among the small number of clubs and businesses that have need of the ‘licenses’. These generate some 700 applications of all types per year (14 a week) and processing them is mainly a case of waiting for the police to confirm that the applicant is a firearm certificate holder, registered firearms dealer or museum curator as the case may be and has appropriate storage for the prohibited weapons.

The department seems powerless to act until the police have done their bit, which makes the Home Office involvement look rather pointless – a duplicate rubber stamp. There is no appeal mechanism for refusals, which violates EU law.

Our view of the section 5 issuing function of the Home Office is that it would be better vested in the DTi, since they have more to do with the day-to-day business of the prohibited weapons trade. Or back to the Ministry of Defence, from whence it came in 1973. Those two departments are both involved in the export of military weapons anyway and would thus have a better handle on an applicant’s ‘need’ than the Home Office, which is outside the loop.

The approval of clubs is not fit for purpose, as it does not cover all the firearms that might be used at clubs. We have this weird situation in which one has to belong to a Home Office approved club in order to possess firearms for target shooting on a firearm certificate, including types that Home Office approval does not extend to, such as long-barrel revolvers and section 1 shotguns. In every case we have had involving clubs in difficulties over their Home Office approval, the local police instigated all the decisions causing the difficulty. It seems to us that the club’s approval might as well be linked to the grant of the club’s firearm certificate. The Home Office is merely a rubber stamp and has been for years.

Our comments to the Home Office in this consultation will have been posted on our website by the time you read this journal.



Kenneth Hugill’s acquittal (10th March 2017) at Hull crown court of GBH after he shot a would-be burglar in the small hours of the night (and the foot) prompted us to dig this letter out: first published in ‘Country Life’ magazine, it was reprinted in the Daily Telegraph in 2015 to promote a book about letters to the Country Life editor.


Radio Times cover the week Jill Dando died


McVicar's Book

See page 18


Back cover of Radio Times. The word 'murder' is part of a book club advert


[November 27th, 1909]

Sir,—If “Country House” will refer to Stone’s Justices’ Manual, forty-eighth edition, 1908, page 813, note G, he will see that he has a perfect right to shoot a burglar. The following is an extract: “As to killing a burglar, see Stephen’s Commentaries, fourteenth edition, vol. 4, page 40, where it is laid down that: if any person attempts the robbery or murder, or to break open a house in the nighttime, and is killed in such attempt, either by the party assaulted or the owner of the house, or the servant attendant upon either, or by any other person present and interposing to prevent mischief, the slayer shall be acquitted and discharged.”

I have beside me a cutting from a local paper, dated November, 1893, which under the heading of “Should Burglars Be Shot?” says, “the S aturday Review discusses the theory as to the right or otherwise of householders to shoot persons whom they find occupying their premises, after a felonious breaking and entry, especially at night.” Commenting on the decision of a recent case at Manchester, it says, “Mr. Justice Grantham must clearly be enrolled among the followers of the late Mr. Justice Wills, and who could be in a better following?

Mr. Justice Wills was asked, ‘If I look into my drawing-room and see a burglar packing up the clock, and he cannot see me, what ought I to do?’ He replied as nearly as may be, ‘My advice to you, which I give as a man, as a lawyer and as an English judge, is as follows: In the supposed circumstances this is what you have a right to do, and I am by no means sure that it is not your duty to do it: Take a double-barrelled gun, carefully load both barrels, and then, without attracting the burglar’s attention, aim steadily at his heart and shoot him dead.’”

Whether the above is a true record of what the (then) late Mr. Justice Wills said or not I cannot vouch for; it is only a copy of what appeared in the paper, but it stands to reason that if a man finds a burglar in his house it would be folly on his part to wait for the burglar to shoot or maim him without having the first shot.— Justice of the Peace


We came close to having Boris Johnson for Prime Minister. He missed out because Michael Gove forgot the basic rule that a kingmaker can’t make himself, thus leaving us with the worst possible outcome for the shooting sports. As Home Secretary since 2010 Theresa May presided over the creeping hunt-sab approach to eliminating certificate holders and registered firearms dealers ‘by any means’; not to mention the re-write of Home Office guidance to the police to include all sorts of stuff for which there is neither legislation nor court precedents and not forgetting the Policing and Crime Bill provisions – inspired by Europe and she’s already said that she will stick us with everything European until the last possible moment. Which leads us to comment on:


After more than forty years of Conservative Prime Ministers negotiating opt-outs to make sure you don’t benefit from EU membership and then asking us what we thought only to go into a big-time sulk about our answer, we can now see that the next half century will consist of Conservative Prime Ministers negotiating opt-ins! And that still won’t benefit the shooting sports as the Home Office policy of vilifying legitimate law abiding social firearms users at every opportunity is a Home Office policy, not an EU one.

We suspect that the proposals relating to de-acs currently being considered in Europe are British in origin. The basic problem with British firearms policy is that ‘they’ want to reduce the number of firearms in circulation while ‘we’ the public like owning and using firearms for a wide variety of largely social reasons. The ‘they’ in this discussion was a self-appointed committee of policemen under the chief inspector of constabularies in the 1960s. The resultant McKay Report in 1972 was never published, although a copy was placed in the House of Commons library in 1997. Before that it appeared as the green paper CMND 5297 in 1973 and although rejected by Parliament at the time many of its proposals became police policies. The 1973 paper was dusted off to become the 1988 Act that banned self-loading rifles and enshrined deactivation in legislation barely a hundred years after the trade started doing it.

The shooting sports are in decline, according to government figures; no boost from the Olympics, since most of the shooting competitions are not open to UK residents as the firearms are prohibited and the venues were temporary anyway, so no legacy either.

Deactivation was brought forth as a way of releasing firearms from the controls – thus to keep certificate numbers down ­– and now the panic is about having abdicated that control ‘they’ don’t know what the rest of you are doing. It would all have been much simpler if your public servants respected the public they purport to serve. Public safety would be better guaranteed by all those de-acs still being live and on certificates in the system.

Likewise the early cartridge firearms: the 1992 obsolete calibre list is another example of government abdicating control over a class of firearms in order to keep certificate numbers down, followed by panic about those firearms not being on certificates.

‘They’ can’t have it both ways: either certificate numbers must rise to accommodate the demands of the law abiding taxpayers or kept down by releasing firearms from the controls. What doesn’t work is the current dogs breakfast in which the certificate system is operated with a view to keeping people out of it. No other government policy works thus: an overhaul to make a system that works for the public it supposedly serves and is fit for purpose is long overdue. The template is in our book ‘does the trigger pull the finger? Unfortunately, we’re more likely to get it through the courts than we are from our government, as is the American experience in Grace et al.


While thinking about Brexit, bear in mind that British army rifles are made in Germany: a country that refused us military supplies during the Falklands campaign in case that upset their ex-pats in Buenos Aires.


Grace et al v District of Columbia et al.

17th May 2016

Washington DC is that swamp set aside by the founding fathers of the United States for the federal capital. An unconstitutional handgun ban there (which exempted cops and didn’t affect bad guys) led it being dubbed the murder capital of the world in the 1970s, yet wasn’t overturned until 2008.

The case then was District of Columbia v Heller. Mr Heller was a security guard who had a handgun at work. The DC law prevented him having one at home or carrying one off duty. His landmark case challenged DC’s law as a violation of his constitutional rights under the second amendment.

This 1791 amendment is the ‘right to keep and bear arms’ and also refers to a ‘well regulated militia’. This phraseology did not matter until politicians started trying to control the freedoms of the citizens they purported to serve in public office and then the debate became whether the founding fathers meant that the right was an individual one or a collective one for citizens only when called out as militia.

The common law principle is that you have the right to defend yourself and those for whom you are responsible. The role of militia is the wider defence of the realm, which extends to acting offensively on behalf of the government. The Supreme Court in ‘Heller’ concluded that the right was an individual one, because when the king called you out as militia, you were supposed to come equipped and ready. The ‘right’ to be armed is thus also an obligation to be prepared to the best of your ability.

The District of Columbia didn’t like a court overturning their policy and since 2008 have placed all manner of obstructions in the way of people who sought to exercise the right to keep arms.

Where there is a carry permit scheme, it’s only valid for that state unless reciprocity agreements have been reached. The New Hampshire permit is now recognised in 28 states: New York is not one of them and it stretches from the Atlantic coast to the Canadian border, blocking land access by tooled-up residents of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont from the other states that recognize their permits.

In DC, the post-Heller concealed carry permit scheme requires applicants to meet a number of criteria relating to good character, health and so forth – more than for being an airline pilot or a police officer – and then the applicant had to take qualifications and lastly had to satisfy the police that that they were in specific jeopardy. That’s similar to Northern Ireland, where being the random victim of a sectarian tit for tat attack didn’t count. You had to survive one attack and prove you were a specific (not a random) target of the assassination attempt to get a carry permit there during the troubles.

DC’s approach seems derived from the British 1920 Firearms Act exemptions, so transporting cash and valuables (which potentially makes you a robbery victim) would count more than being a celebrity. This threshold is what the Supreme Court ruled was a step too far in Grace et al, so DC can keep all the barriers they have dreamed up regarding mental health etc., but can’t use their ‘good reason’ restriction to refuse applicants who aren’t about to be homicide victims.

Interesting. In UK firearms legislation the ‘good reason’ requirement only relates to sporting purposes. Nothing in the Act contradicts the Bill of Rights, yet the UK Home Office has long used the mantra that carrying a weapon to defend oneself on the off chance of being attacked is an inappropriate form of defensive weaponry. That is still being clung to despite having long since been discredited, such as by the police using them. The ‘off-chance’ position came up recently in correspondence with Gloucester police. An SRA member applied for 12 bore slugs to deal with wild boar and while Gloucester will allow a (minimum) .270” rifle for him to carry with that purpose in mind, they won’t allow 12 bore slugs for use in a shotgun for him on the ‘off-chance’ of encountering wild boar while out with the shotgun with a wide variety of other pest species in mind.

That harks back to the 1970s when a (since discredited) Home Office committee decided that there should only be one good reason for each firearm, so that it was easier for a roadside police check to establish whether a firearm was being transported for that good reason or not. The policy fell apart soon enough, but the Home Office is not an organisation that lets bad ideas go if they might have some negative effect on what law abiding taxpayers get up to in their spare time.


In 2014 sections 108 to 111 of the Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 extended prohibition to include suspended sentences. A ‘prohibited person’ under the Firearms Act may not possess any firearm or ammunition. A firearm is a lethal barrelled weapon from which any shot, bullet or missile can be discharged. Ammunition is the projectile – in its ‘ready-use’ form – that can be discharged from those firearms.

‘Lethal’ is defined in the Scottish air Weapon and Licensing Act 2016 as ‘1 joule’ or about .7 of one foot-pound: so ‘firearms’ for the purposes of prohibited persons includes air guns and the ammunition for them: so lead pellets, darts, 6mm plastic balls etc.

The 2014 Act also extended the list of things ‘prohibited persons’ can’t possess to include antiques – which until then were not controlled by any provisions in legislation. Antique firearms are otherwise outwith the controls, regardless of their operational status, so a shot-out, rusted out percussion tribal musket with a bent barrel is as off-ticket as a mint condition Martini Henry.

To become a prohibited person under the 1937 Firearms Act, one had to be sentenced to three years or more in prison, whereupon the prohibition lasted for five years from the date of release.

A private member’s bill in 1965 – said to be to do with easing the passage of the abolition of the death penalty – extended the five year ban above to a permanent one and applied the five year ban to anyone sentenced to three months or more in prison, effective from the date of release. A provision was enacted for any person subject to prohibition to apply for relief to the convicting court. The 1969 case R v Fordham decided that suspended sentences did not count toward prohibition, deciding that on the key word ‘release’.

In 2010, Derrick Bird’s killing spree in Whitehaven, Cumbria gave rise to the Home Affairs Select Committee in Parliament having another look at firearms legislation and they noticed that Bird had received a suspended sentence in the 1970s and highlighted that as another turn of the screw: hence the 2014 amendment to over-rule ‘Fordham’.

The Home Office under Theresa May (2010-16) became more antagonistic toward people who want to own and use firearms and shotguns lawfully; such people are to be vilified at every opportunity – that’s what your government thinks of your choice of hobby - hence the ‘hunt-sab’ approach to trying to demonize and criminalize your lawful activity and the gun trade’s lawful business.

Segments of the Home Office guidance to police were re-written to expect the police to consider (as contra-indications to firearms ownership) a wide variety of factors, including domestic strife and controlling behaviour, that do not appear as contra-indications in legislation or decided cases. The one case that considered domestic strife (Edwards v Norfolk 1993) is not mentioned, as its conclusions are at odds to those in the new Home Office guidance: nor is the landmark case Joy v chief constable of Dumfries and Galloway (1966) which directs decision makers to the duty to consider any application from the point of view of an applicant and not from that of a possible objector.

Into this mix came the inquest into the murders committed by certificate holder Mike Atherton at the end of 2012. His was an unsettled life pockmarked by police involvement in domestic incidents such that they had taken his guns away more than once until things calmed down: when he got them back he shot three members of his family. That’s where Home Office concerns about domestics and guns come from and gave rise to the policy of whittling down the number of certificate holders ‘by any means’: that Marks Holmes (reported elsewhere in this issue) got caught up in.

Suspended sentences seem to have become more common since 2010. Maybe that’s a new policy too. Back in 1981, a Greater London Council report on women in prison said that most were there for non-payment of fines imposed for crimes that would not, of themselves, have attracted a custodial sentence. The principle of law is that the courts can’t imprison someone for the first time unless there is no alternative due to the seriousness of the crime or the immediate need to protect the public.

Imprisoning people for non-payment of fines evades that principle. So does suspending the sentence, as it doesn’t get the convict into gaol unless they offend again. What it does do, if the suspended sentence is for three months or more, is obliges the police to revoke a firearm/shotgun certificate that is held: at which point we meet Leslie Jardine.

He caught a suspended sentence for fraud by submitting two quotes for a job on different letterheads. The Metropolitan Police revoked his firearm certificate, as the law requires and with SRA assistance Mr Jardine applied to Woolwich crown court to ask for the prohibition to be lifted. Home Office guidance says it should be unless the offence involved violence or firearms.

Fraud is neither: a 1988 case (Spencer-Stewart v Kent) says that a non-violent crime is not evidence of danger to public safety or the peace. How ‘violence’ should be considered in this context is addressed in Edwards v chief constable of Norfolk (1993) and how ‘firearms crimes’ should be considered is addressed in Shepherd v chief constable of Devon and Cornwall (2002). Home Office newspeak guidance does not extend to mentioning these relevant cases, thus leading firearms managers astray.

At the hearing on 3rd June 2016, the judge had read Mr Jardine’s application and supporting documents, discussed the application with the police and the CPS and on reading ‘Archbold’ (the barrister’s bible) he found two mistakes in it, which he referred to editors for correction, saying that in forty years it was the first time he’d found anything like that to correct.

Police attendance at applications is optional. In a case like this, where they would not have revoked the certificate on the conviction but for the requirement of the sentence, they usually tell the court that and stay away. The judge accepted the application as appropriate and lifted the prohibition. The police issued a new certificate against Mr Jardine’s subsequent application a couple of months later.

We assume the utility of this new prohibited person legislation is so that the police have to reconsider erstwhile certificate holders against the new Home Office policy relating to domestic violence, controlling behaviour etc. Somewhat redundant in Mr Jardine’s case, as he lives alone, so when Adam Johnson rocked up with a similar problem and domestic circumstances, we helped him draft his statement and we re-jigged the supporting documentation to show the result in Mr Jardine’s case and the judge’s identification of two mistakes in Archbold.

Adam Johnson’s case was similar but different. He was growing cannabis plants to use the extract for pain relief purposes and the police noticed. This landed him a six month suspended sentence at Truro crown court, to which he applied for prohibition to be lifted. What happened next was beyond belief. Initially the police asked for a delay to the hearing date to prepare their case. Then they provided that preparation in which it was alleged that Mr Johnson had multiple aliases, under one of which he’d previously held a firearm certificate in Northampton, which was revoked after a fraud conviction. They claimed he’d applied for prohibition to be lifted and had been refused.

We reverted to Mr Johnson who said that he was always known as ‘Richards’ until adulthood when he found out (when needing his birth certificate to join the army) that he was registered as ‘Johnson’ at birth. Since then, he has always used ‘Johnson’ for legal purposes, such as his driving licence and he is known to police record by both names after a caution for possessing an offensive weapon ten years ago. The third alias alleged on his PNC is his deceased brother’s name and date of birth and the fourth suggested by Devon and Cornwall police is actually an chap called Gordon who appealed to the high court after failing to gain relief from prohibition at Northampton crown court in the 1990s.

We are used to the current ‘by any means’ policy leading police professionals into over-egging their evidence, but usually from the witness box when it’s harder to counter and thus more likely to sway the court away from the citizen. Blatant false evidence of this sort is rarely committed in writing and when it is they usually go to great lengths to avoid disclosing the material. We prepared a further statement for Mr Johnson, which he swore as an affidavit.

The chief constable sent a barrister to the hearing who described the statement as ‘a mistake’. The chief constable’s only concern was if Johnson was no longer using cannabis as a pain killer, is he using something prescribed that might draw him into conflict with the recent drug-driving policies. “No,” said Mr Johnson, “I’m on the minimum level of pain relief on prescription and his doctor says it will not affect my driving.”

The judge released him from the prohibition, advising him not to re-apply for his firearm certificate. That gives Mr Johnson his air rifles back, a result that made his day. We’d agree with the judge that he should not apply for his firearm certificate back, at least until the dishonest staff have been dealt with and their replacements adequately trained to process his application according to law.


A long time SRA member, Blair Grindle has always lived in the Forest of Dean area, as does most of his extended family. His father was a WW2 veteran who liberated various items from Germany while looting his way to VE Day. His 1945 souvenirs feature in this 2016 case. While in Germany he found out about ‘drillings’: a corruption of a German word, it refers to a double barrel side by side shotgun with a rifle barrel beneath; where the ramrod went on muzzle loading guns.

These became a feature of the family. Mr Grindle senior taught safe handing and use of firearms and country pursuits such that Blair Grindle became an all-round countryman and a full time gamekeeper at How Caple Court Estate: working his black Labradors and extending his range to deer stalking in the 1990s.

He in turn taught his son Clinton to shoot – the drilling features again – and young Clinton hoped to inherit the drilling. Mr Grindle switched to factory work in 1993 following the death of the estate owner and by 1997 was more involved in competitive Tae Kwando than in shooting. He and his daughter went to Eindhoven, Holland, to represent Great Britain in amateur championships. This was before it became an Olympic sport so he had to pay for it all. His daughter lost her final and received a silver medal. He did not fight his final as the opponent he beat in the semi punched him as the referee declared his win. That earned him a fractured skull and shattered eye socket.

The local remedy to the pain he was in (in Holland) was cannabis and he used that after returning to the UK and eventually started growing the stuff to make it cheaper. The pain continued until the eventual replacement of the damaged part of his skull with a plastic one. He had fifty plants on the go in his loft – each plant would generate about enough for a week of pain relief – when the police attended with a search warrant in December 2000.

His firearms etc. were seized and he was eventually convicted of growing cannabis. His firearms collection was scrutinized and after prosecution and defence expert reports he was advised to plead guilty to possession of a sound moderator that was not listed on his firearm certificate. It had been on there previously, but was taken off by a firearms enquiry officer who said it did not need to be listed. He was conditionally discharged for two years for each offence.

A few years working abroad intervened before he returned to the Forest of Dean and a small furniture and joinery business. That lasted a year before the landlord sold the place, so he moved on into a gap in the market for pest control services. He had to learn alternatives for where shooting won’t work and took the required exams for poisons, such as phostoxin (gas release tablets for mole runs) and tallinex (strychnine substitute). His son Clinton assisted in the business with his working dogs and ferrets until he was killed in a road accident in 2014.

Pest control work dried up after that, as people did not want to intrude on his mourning, nor risk asking him to take on work that he could not handle alone, but having a lot of experience and qualifications related to game keeping and pest control he planned on setting up a wildlife management company specializing in deer and wild boar. The first step, of necessity, was to see Gloucester about getting his certificates back.

There are two main problems with the administration of firearms legislation by the police. One is that policing has an agenda of reducing certificate numbers ‘by any means’ and the other is that the police don’t have to issue firearm certificates to anyone they don’t trust, so an application was refused fourteen years after the conditional discharges he received had expired.

Herbal self-medication is a victimless crime that, so far as we can tell, has never been cited as evidence of ‘danger to public safety or the peace’. Mr Grindle never sold any of his products and has not used cannabis for at least fifteen years, nor does he knowingly associate with anyone who does. So far as his firearms offence goes, he was obviously foolish to let the police take the moderator off his certificate and if that makes him unfitted to be entrusted with firearms, what does it make them?

The chief constable cited ‘danger to public safety or the peace’ as his ground. In Spencer-Stewart v Kent (Times, 1988) the court took the view that his convictions under the Theft Act 1968 were not violent crimes and were not evidence of danger to public safety or the peace. In 2002, the decision of Shepherd v chief constable of Devon and Cornwall confirmed that the firearms convictions Mr Shepherd had were likewise not evidence of danger to public safety or the peace. The high court distinguished between his shot gun certificate and firearm certificate in that the grounds for revocation are slightly different, so in his case he was allowed his shot gun certificate, not being a danger to public safety or the peace, but not allowed his firearm certificate back on that appeal on the basis that his dishonesty in relation to his firearms could be interpreted as making him ‘otherwise unfitted to be entrusted with firearms’.

So Mr Grindle’s case for appeal was that neither conviction stood tall enough to count as ‘danger to public safety or the peace’ and the court that convicted him set the seriousness of the offences at the lower end of the penalty scale. As reported elsewhere in this issue, a cannabis conviction was not regarded in Truro crown court as sufficient grounds not to allow prohibition to be lifted.

The police offered no new evidence to the court and called no witnesses, but opposed the appeal on the grounds that they did not trust Mr Grindle because when police attended his premises some sixteen years ago in connection with a renewal application, he had a Nazi battle flag displayed on his wall. This was one of his father’s souvenirs and he’d hung it, he said, to get the creases out before photographing it to sell. Concerns about the flag were supported by other Nazi stuff, including CDs and such. One senses transference kicking in, as the man convicted of killing Jo Brand MP possessed similar material.

The judge took an overall view of Mr Grindle, ranging from juvenile convictions to an arrogant disregard for the law, such as not bothering to tell the police that the sound moderator should be on certificate, and came to the view that nothing of itself indicated refusal was appropriate, but added together this was not someone he was prepared to trust with firearms. The one point that he failed to address, and which we would have liked him to, is the passage of time. His negative view of Mr Grindle was based entirely on things in his past, all of which are more than fifteen years ago and the intervening quarter of his life free of law-breaking of any kind did not, it seem, count toward rehabilitation for having inherited his father’s war souvenir flag.

“Ahead of the new law taking effect, Police Scotland received 6,948 applications for an air weapon certificate by 31 October. Certificates, or refusals, have been issued in all but a limited number of cases, for example where further investigation is required or where payment has not yet been received from the applicant.

A further 5,436 applications were received between 1 November and 31 December 2016. Police Scotland are processing these as quickly as possible, but those who are awaiting a decision must make arrangements to have their air weapons stored in a safe and appropriate place - either with someone who has an air weapon, firearm or shot gun certificate, or a registered firearms dealer - to avoid committing an offence. In addition, by 31 December, 18,935 unwanted air weapons had been surrendered to Police Scotland for secure destruction since the summer.

When you recall that there is an estimated 500,000 air weapons in Scotland, you can see that there must be a large pool of potential criminals awaiting detection. We then asked:

‘British Government and Constitution’, a book you co-authored with Colin Turpin contains an extract from the Bill of Rights including the text: ‘That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law.’ Your book then states: ‘The provisions of the Bill of Rights are not inviolate, and some have been altered by subsequent legislation; for example, it hardly needs saying that Protestant subjects no longer enjoy a special privilege in the keeping of arms.’ Here’s the thing; Protestants never had a special privilege in the keeping of arms. At the time the Bill of Rights came into being, only Catholics had the right to possess defensive arms. The mention of allowing Protestants, i.e. anyone not a Catholic, defensive arms simply restored their common law right. That right still exists, bolstered by Article 2 of the ECHR, and I wondered if this might accommodate the unlicenced air weapons in Scotland? Instead of prosecuting people for not possessing a licence, why not default to the Common Law? There is nothing to prevent a person applying for a licence if they wish to use a defensive air weapon for target shooting. If they fail to qualify for a licence the common law would allow them to retain their property. This does not mean someone who commits an offence with an air weapon should not face the consequences of their action. However, unless the police are investigating a reported misuse of an air weapon, why look for trouble?

His reply read:

“You are extremely creative at concocting ingenious legal arguments that would have no chance of success in a court of law!

Top marks for imagination (and thanks for reading my book!) but, in all seriousness, I have made my position perfectly clear.

There is no chance that the courts would rule—or even entertain an argument—that the common law has anything to do with this area of law given the mountain of legislative enactments on gun controls.”

We note that there is no attempt to explain the osmosis from right to privilege. Nobody else has tried to explain it either. Undeterred, the Suspect tried again:

Dear Adam,

To the best of my knowledge, gun control legislation, however mountainous, applies only to firearms for recreational use.

The Bill and the Claim of Rights Acts confirm the common law authority to possess defensive arms, and they do not suffer implied repeal because they are constitutional.

If there is an act expressly revoking the common law right to defensive arms, care to give me a clue as to its title?

There was no reply so the next attempt:

“The web site’s version of the Claim of Right Act 1689 includes the statement: 'There are currently no known outstanding effects for the Claim of Right Act 1689.' If the Claim of Right is intact, and it states that disarming is contrary to law, then doesn’t my suggestion about allowing owners of air weapons to default to the common law make sense?”

His reply fell short of being an answer:

“We really have exhausted all this. There are no grounds for thinking the common law has any role to play. I'm sorry.”

The story is not over yet however; nothing in this Journal is concluded, so we’ll pick up in the next one to see what’s happening.

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