The Lough Erne Wildfowler’s Council (LEWC) celebrated ten years their conservation work by organising a wader conservation conference.
Fighting your corner on firearms
Gareth Dockerty discusses the legal support available to BASC members to contest firearms cases.
An insurance comfort blanket
In July 2020, BASC announced that we had taken the decision to remove firearms legal expenses insurance from our broader insurance package. At the time, legal expenses insurance (LEI) cost more than £1 million each year to provide, with more restrictions and conditions being continuously added. Indeed by 2020, BASC’s LEI only considered the cases of around one in every 2,000 members.
It’s clear that LEI provided an insurance comfort blanket to a proportion of BASC members, despite the vast majority never needing to call on it, or their individual case not fitting within the strict conditions of the insurance policy.
Three years on from the announcement, what firearms support does a BASC member get in 2023?
The Fighting Fund
BASC created a seven-figure Fighting Fund in 2020, that is in excess of a million pounds to defend sustainable shooting. There are no strict insurance restrictions on how this fund can be used, instead it is a clear decision for our staff and council members (elected by the membership). As the largest shooting organisation in the UK, we have built a considerable financial strength to protect and fight for sustainable shooting.
Since, 2020 Fighting Fund headlines have centred around our work on various legal challenges, including gamebird release and general licence legal challenges in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. While this is important to our community, it does not reflect the importance of the Fighting Fund for the individual member.
Can the Fighting Fund help individual BASC members?
BASC’s Fighting Fund is available to help individual members, in a similar way to the previous LEI. We feel this option is more pragmatic and cost effective.
Each case brought forwards is taken on its individual merits, however we are broadly looking for:
- A case that has a likelihood of winning (the previous LEI did not fund cases unlikely to succeed)
- The member has been the victim of an injustice
- Does the case have wider implications? (while any judgment will be based on that specific case, if there is a point of principle, it can help set the correct tone for other firearms departments on future decision making)
Cases are regularly discussed and put forward by our dedicated firearms officers, and we expect the Fighting Fund will have been used for more 40 individual cases by the end of this year. By taking this approach, we are not beholden to the decision-making of an insurance provider and can make the call in the best interests of both an individual member and of the broader shooting community.
It’s important to note that our decision-making team reserve the right to stop further funding of a case at any point. Any costs incurred by the member will be covered until that point, but it is only right that if circumstances change, we are not spending members’ money on a case that no longer has the prospect of a successful outcome.
Our specialist firearms team
Remember as a BASC member you have free unlimited access to our dedicated firearms team, with a full-time specialist in each region. Give us a call, send an email, or leave a message, we are here to support you. Every week we take around 140 firearms calls (that is more than 7,000 calls per year) from members, on top of our existing case work.
Our staff also build key relationships with the police firearms departments across each region, ensuring we work proactively rather than just reacting to members’ problems. The benefits of the firearms officers being regionally-based (rather than based from our BASC HQ) means we can cultivate better relationships, react quickly and attend meetings more efficiently at a reduced cost.
It is important to look back sometimes and see how the service we provide today has improved or shifted with the challenges we face. Ultimately, the LEI was expensive for our members and delivered limited results. Our focus is to continue to improve our service and to keep moving forward, and, now more than ever, each member has the specialist expertise and funds at their disposal should they need them.