BASC has published the results of its third annual review of firearms licensing performance, which reveals a stark contrast between forces across England and Wales.

The association’s firearms team has obtained figures for firearm (FAC) and shotgun (SGC) certificate grants and renewals, coterminous renewals and variations.

Analysis of the data for individual police forces across England and Wales shows some improvement in 2018 compared to 2017, while other forces continue to experience longer than average processing times.

Nationally, the best performing forces based on average application processing times were Cleveland, Lancashire and Leicestershire.

The bottom three forces were South Wales, Dorset and West Midlands.

BASC firearms officer Rory O’Loughlin, who co-ordinated the research, said: “This year’s figures are a mixed bag but, on the whole, mostly positive.

“Last year was what we refer to as a ‘dip year’, where there is a reduced demand on firearms licensing departments.

“The first ‘dip period’ was created when certificate terms were changed from three to five years in duration. It created a vacuum in the process that repeats now on a cyclical basis.”

“Some forces are taking measures to balance out the peaks and troughs.”

Cumbria, Lincolnshire and Lancashire showed the greatest improvement in 2018 compared with 2017.

BASC’s research shows the mean average for FAC grants is 69 days. This remains the same as last year.

SGC grants showed slight improvement from a 68 day average in 2017 to 61 days in 2018 – a reduction of a week.

Coterminous grants also showed minor improvement at 58 days average compared with 63 days previously.

Renewals also showed an overall improvement in turn-around times with FACs being processed in an average of 48 days, down from 53 days previously.

SGC renewals were better still, showing a 39 day average compared with 43 days at last review.

Coterminous renewals averaged 46 days compared with 52 days previously. Finally, variation waiting remained stable at 12 days on average (13 days previously).

BASC’s head of firearms Paul Dale said: “It is encouraging to see an overall improvement in performance but it remains disappointing to see the huge difference in turnaround times.

“Those forces that are under performing should liaise with the more efficient forces to identify ways in which they can streamline their processes and improve the service they provide.

All forces should be striving towards providing an efficient, cost-effective, robust system of firearms licensing that protects public safety and provides excellent service to the shooting community.’’

BASC chairman Peter Glenser QC added: “This is the third year we have conducted this research and while some numbers and some forces are still very disappointing it is important to remember that we are now engaging with them to help them turn things around.

“We will continue to work with all forces across the UK to ensure our members get the best and shortest processing times.”

The new table is based on figures from 1 January 2018 to 31 December 2018 and uses a traffic light system to show relative performance. Green cells indicate above average performance, while red cells show below average performers. Yellow indicates average performance. Each cells shows the relevant average, recorded in calendar days.

Click here for the full table.

Inconsistent licensing services and prolonged delays are among the most unwelcome features of firearms licensing in the UK. Every month BASC’s firearms team receive complaints from members frustrated by what appears to be an improperly managed and under resourced service. The situation is worsened by recent license fee increases – an increase that saw no corresponding improvement in service. The government, too, has recognised the situation with HMIC bluntly describing firearm licensing practices as “inconsistent and inadequate” (HMIC, 2015).

In February 2017, BASC began publishing firearms licensing performance figures for police forces in England and Wales. This was based on questions that BASC submitted to each police force in England and Wales on the amount of time taken by each police force to issue grants and renewals in addition to a range of other licensing activities such as processing transaction notifications and issuing variations. Our efforts have already attracted a lot of attention with strong engagement from shooters on social media, an article in the Shooting Times discussing our findings and an interview with Dave Orford in Police Professional which cites the need for improvement.

Northern Ireland

Firearms licensing performance figures have been received from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

  • Average grant time: 108 days
  • Average renewal time: 74 days
  • Average variation time: 24 days.

Scotland

Firearms licensing performance figures have been requested from Police Scotland. This section will be updated once the figures are received.

England and Wales

For England and Wales BASC’s research currently shows the mean average for a section 1 grant to be 88 days; 86 days for a section 2 grant; 65 days for a section 1 renewal; 63 days for a section 2 renewal; and 27 days to issue a variation. We have used a league table with a simple traffic light system to show relative performance; green cells indicate above average performance, whilst red cells show below average performers. Yellow indicates average performance. Each cell shows the relevant average, recorded in calendar days. “N/A” may mean the force had the information, but refused to answer, that they aren’t recording data entirely, or that they record the information in an inaccessible fashion (individual paper records). We have not yet received performance figures for Avon & Somerset Constabulary.

DAYS TAKEN TO PROCESS APPLICATIONS*

Police force

FAC Grant

SGC Grant

FAC Renewal

SGC Renewal

Variation

Avon & Somerset
Constabulary

46

49

n/a

n/a

n/a

Bedfordshire
Police

60

61

42

33

7

Cambridgeshire
Constabulary

35

34

29

25

14

Cheshire
Constabulary

81

31

78

39

10

City of London
Police**

10

5

0

3

n/a

Cleveland
Police

47

50

2

3

0

Cumbria
Constabulary

168

168

168

168

35

Derbyshire
Constabulary

65

69

43

40

37

Devon &
Cornwall Police

89

85

50

47

n/a

Dorset
Police

91

102

74

73

n/a

Durham
Constabulary

38

37

39

39

1

Dyfed-Powys
Police

76

59

73

40

16

Essex
Police

222

258

134

210

27

Gloucestershire
Police

87

71

83

74

26

Greater Manchester
Police

102

99

143

151

99

Gwent
Police

68

49

55

46

26

Hampshire
Constabulary

185

183

77

74

91

Hertfordshire
Constabulary

51

51

30

28

10

Humberside
Police

89

87

55

50

18

Kent
Police

171

179

122

225

69

Lancashire
Constabulary

195

195

45

45

68

Leicestershire
Police

23

20

18

12

5

Lincolnshire
Police

120

130

81

62

36

Merseyside
Police

61

66

67

60

21

Metropolitan Police
Service

52

45

39

34

13

Norfolk
Constabulary

38

38

18

10

13

North Wales
Police

75

68

60

42

29

North Yorkshire
Police

59

67

19

19

n/a

Northampton
Police

60

68

33

26

50

Northumbria
Police

37

42

22

23

3

Nottinghamshire
Police

86

93

75

54

23

South Wales
Police

93

69

86

70

n/a

South Yorkshire
Police

105

109

77

68

14

Staffordshire
Police

73

73

107

93

13

Suffolk
Constabulary

24

23

26

8

9

Surrey
Police

43

53

32

33

n/a

Sussex
Police

38

35

28

26

7

Thames Valley
Police

128

131

67

116

27

Warwickshire
Police

186

178

165

143

51

West Mercia
Police

189

144

169

141

54

West Midland
Police

92

95

113

93

21

West Yorkshire
Police

160

158

58

55

n/a

Wiltshire
Police

45

48

40

36

7

*All figures reflect an average taken from a 12 month window between early 2016 and early 2017. As such, performance figures and rankings may not be up to date at the time of reading.

**City of London’s figures may not be comparable to other forces due to their unusually small licensing area encompassing just 30 certificate holders.

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