Hampshire Constabulary along with some other police services have come under continued criticism for the standard of service being provided to firearms and shotgun licence holders. Many of the points raised have been justified and Hampshire Constabulary has publically accepted the need to modernise working practises and bring a more customer focused approach to all aspects of applications, renewals and variations. A process of engagement with individuals and representative shooting organisations has taken place and will continue. Hampshire Constabulary welcome constructive points from the community through the firearms enquiry officers.
The main area of complaint has been the ability to process renewals and applications in a timely manner which has left shooters in possession of shotguns and firearms without a current certificate.
Hampshire Constabulary began a review of the Firearms Licensing Department in 2012. It was decided to prioritise elements that could be addressed locally and weren’t subject to changes in Home Office guidance or national law. The number of late renewals and the lengthy application process needed to be addressed. The department needed to look at staff training, technology and changes in the conditions imposed on certificate holders which were unnecessary to achieve the aim of safe gun possession.
By a concerted effort the backlog of certificate renewals and applications has been addressed and the Firearms Licensing Dept are now working in real time. The current expectation being, if applications are submitted in good time and with accurate details and have no issues which require extra research there should be no reason for shooters to be holding uncertificated guns.
The future for certification is firmly routed in technology, many government departments are using e-Commerce such as vehicle excise licensing, fishing permits and statutory off road notifications being completed on line. It’s expected that Hampshire Constabulary will adopt the national electronic system to deal with licensing by the end of this year. The process will allow customers to apply on line, correct mistakes, pay on line. The applicant will be able to track where in the process their application is by using their own unique reference number.
Hampshire Constabulary accept there are shooters who don’t have direct access to computers or wish to use e-Commerce. Paper submissions will still be available. Once the value and ease of the system is more widely realised it’s hoped the vast majority will use it.
Applicants submitting paper applications will have their records loaded into a digital format making the management of their records the same as those applying on line.
The current licensing fee only covers 30 per cent of the staffing costs of the department. The electronic management of certificates will introduce savings and improve the service to the shooting community.
Shooters spread across the UK are also frustrated that police forces apply different approaches to guidance and conditions. Work is ongoing both nationally and locally and Hampshire Constabulary are committed to making improvements, recognising the issues and where possible quickly rectifying mistakes or improving service.
Hampshire Constabulary intend to attend this years Highclere Game Show with BASC to offer a firearms licensing facility. It may be possible dependant on advances in mobile technology to offer one for ones, renewals, applications and general queries at the show. In some cases, if suitable we could be sending certificates out within days of the show or updating new purchases there and then.
More information about firearms licensing can be found at www.hampshire.police.uk
Article courtesy of Hampshire Police