William Powell Country

Firearms ‘The Legal Series’
Part 8


Article written by 18 October 2012

Production of Certificates

The Firearms Act 1968 requires a person in possession of a firearm/shotgun in a public place to show his certificate to a police officer who demands to see it or to show proof of not needing one.  There is no notice to produce procedure as there is with driving licences.

Upon renewal of a certificate, the holder should make sure that each gun he has is properly described on it, with its make, model and number accurately printed and that the police officer checks this with each weapon.  He should ensure that the amount and description of rifle ammunition that the certificate allows is not exceeded in practice and that, by the purchases as shown in the certificate, he can prove that he actually uses the weapons.  Where years pass without any rifle ammunition being bought, police may say that the holder has no good reason for retaining his rifles as he does not appear to have used them.

Application for renewal forms should be completed accurately and submitted in good time as the police may take months to process them, and, strictly, the holder will be committing offences if he retains possession of guns or ammunition without a current certificate.  It is sensible to conduct a full audit of all guns and ammunition before submitting the renewal application.

Refusals and Appeals

Where police refuse an application to grant, renew or vary a certificate there is a right of appeal to the Crown Court.  The Notice of Appeal (there is no set format) must be lodged with the Court and served on the Chief Officer of Police within three weeks of receiving the Notice of Refusal.  This time limit ought to be regarded as strict, although in practice it may be possible to go beyond it as long as a good reason can be shown.

The Court, and not the police, will then decide whether the appellant should have his application granted or not and the Court will take into account all the circumstances.  It does not decide whether the police were right or wrong but will consider afresh the merits of the application and decide it.

Even if he wins it is unlikely that an appellant will be awarded the costs of his appeal unless the police have acted unreasonable or unfairly.  If he loses he will probably be ordered to pay the police costs of defending the appeal.  This is because the case law has made it clear that the possession of guns is a privilege, not a right, and the police can only allow people to have guns if they are satisfied that they ought to do so.  The onus of proof, therefore, lies with the applicant. Who pays for the costs involved in such an appeal may determine whether there is one or not.  It would be wise for any gamekeeper or his employer to take out insurance for this kind of risk.  These cases can be expensive and rarely amount to less than £10,000 if fought right out.


Matthew Knight is the Senior Partner of Knights Solicitors. Knights are retained by a number of national organisations in relation to firearms licencing including The National Small-Bore Rifle Association. Knight are also retained by se.. Read more.

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