The UK’s largest shooting organisation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), has criticised the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) after a report highlighting Durham Police’s failings in the handling of Michael Atherton, who shot dead three family members and then himself, was shown to the press months before it is expected to be made public.
Press reports claim the IPCC found that there were "unacceptable" and "inexcusable" failings in how Durham Police dealt with Mr Atherton in the lead up to the shootings on New Year’s Day.
Despite submitting evidence to the IPCC on the shootings, BASC has not been shown a copy of the report and understands it will not see a copy until it is made public after an inquest has been held next year.
BASC’s director of firearms Bill Harriman said: "Our sympathies remain with the families of the victims in this tragedy. The IPCC’s report is of great interest yet it seems to have been discussed with everybody other than people whose certificates may be affected by any subsequent decisions taken by Government.
"It is in the public interest that the investigation into Durham Police should be fully transparent so that lessons can be learnt for avoiding such tragedies in the future. We are unable to do this if the report is to be officially hidden for up to two years.
“I think it’s remarkable that as the largest shooting organisation in the UK, which provided evidence to the IPCC, BASC will have to wait until after the inquest next year to see it yet it has been plastered all over the press.
"We were unsurprised to learn that there were serious failings by Durham Police and we are concerned to learn that no disciplinary action is to be taken against any member of the force. Durham Police’s concern that it might have lost an appeal, had it revoked Atherton’s certificates, lacks credibility and substance. In our experience, the chances of Atherton winning any appeal were slight.”
BASC was involved in a BBC investigative film on the shootings, which was broadcast earlier this year, raising concerns about the firearms licensing process in the case.