BASC has asked the Home Office to reconvene the Medical Evidence Working Group amid concerns that Lincolnshire Police and Lincolnshire Medical Council (LMC) are seeking to introduce non-statutory elements to the firearm licensing process.
The UK’s largest shooting organisation has already advised a number of GP practices in the county that they could be committing criminal offences by attempting to extract unnecessary fees from applicants. BASC has reported the individual practices and the LMC to the Fitness to Practice Directorate of the General Medical Council.
BASC has also requested an urgent meeting with Assistant Chief Constable Dave Orford, the national police lead on firearms licensing, and has written to Lincolnshire Chief Constable Bill Shelly to ask the legal basis for the plans to operate outside nationally-agreed guidelines.
The Medical Evidence Working Group was convened by the Home Office and included BASC, other shooting organisations, the police, the medical profession and the Information Commissioner’s Office. The group agreed a process which included the police writing to an applicant’s GP to establish any concerns about their possession of a certificate or whether the applicant had suffered from a relevant medical condition in the previous five years. If the police do not receive a response within 21 days, they assume there are no issues.
At the last meeting of the working group prior to the medical scheme being introduced in April 2016, the BMA representative was recorded in the minutes as being content that there would no expectation of GPs charging a fee for responding to the initial police letter.
Paul Dale, manager of BASC’s firearms team, said: “Members in Lincolnshire have been experiencing problems with their GP practices when applying for the grant or renewal of certificates. Many have received invoices for varying amounts together with an accompanying letter.
“The content of the letter contains a specific threat that if they do not pay the fee, the GP will write to the police and tell them to assume that the applicant suffers a relevant medical condition which precludes them from holding a certificate.
“BASC challenged each of the practices concerned advising them that we believed this to be a malicious process that could meet the threshold of criminal offences including demanding money with menaces, fraud and wasting police time.
“We understand the LMC has now advised practices not to issue the letters. But it appears the LMC and Lincolnshire Police are determined to continue operating outside the Home Office guidance on firearms licensing, which provides a national framework for processing applications and renewals.
“This stance is wholly against Home Office guidance and is out-with the recommendations of ACC Orford. It is of grave concern to BASC that Lincolnshire Police are considering introducing a non-statutory process into the firearm licensing regime. We have written to the Home Office to ask that the Medical Evidence Working Group is reconvened so that these serious issues can be addressed.”
BASC continues to advise its members not to pay any fee which a GP may demand upon receipt of an initial letter from the police advising that a patient is applying for a licence.
BASC chairman Peter Glenser, a barrister specialising in firearms law, said: “It is clear that Lincolnshire LMC and Lincolnshire Police are working together to introduce a non-statutory process and indeed recommend fee levels.
“Should it be introduced, applicants will be financially disadvantaged by it over and above applicants elsewhere within England and Wales. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that all GPs will comply with any agreement reached with the LMC and applicants will run the risk of refusal where a GP refuses to provide medical information.
“The Firearms Act does not require an applicant to accompany an application with a medical report. The position previously reached by the Home Office Medical Evidence Working Group is outlined in the Home Office Guide on Firearms Licensing Law.
“BASC will robustly challenge any attempt to introduce non-legislative requirements into the application process in Lincolnshire and elsewhere.”