Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220 - 229)



  220. Can I take you back to the muzzle loading pistols that you mentioned. Is it right that those type of pistols have now been developed so that their power and accuracy are similar to handguns?
  (Lt Col Hoare) That is not true.

  221. And that they can be reloaded as quickly?
  (Lt Col Hoare) There has been no development on that at all.
  (Mr Harriman) The technology has not developed since 1836 when Samuel Colt did his first patent formula. They are exactly the same. They take a long time to load and they were effectively obsolete by 1870. The Canadian Government tried to sell its surplus and could not find a buyer in 1872.

  222. Mr Johnson, can I go back to the scenario you were describing when you made the analogy between shooters and runners. You seemed to be suggesting there would inevitably be a desire among shooters to test the boundaries of any ban that there was.
  (Mr Johnson) I am not sure that I said that.

  223. Let me put it another way. If you were saying, as I thought you were, that a ban on a 100 metres race would simply lead to somebody wishing to express himself in a different form of race which tested him in similar ways, are you not arguing that any ban that was introduced by this Parliament or a successive Parliament would simply lead shooters to seek to develop different ways of testing the boundaries of that ban?
  (Mr Johnson) No, I do not think I have said that at all. I think my colleague has said already that the sport has lost a lot of people who committed no crime, who were not a danger to the public, but because they were stigmatised in that way they decided that shooting was not for them.
  (Lt Col Hoare) Others have moved across into air pistol shooting from cartridge pistols. These are respectable and responsible people who have acted responsibly and respectfully and handed their pistols in for some pretty meagre compensation compared with the criminals who still kill people almost by the dozens in a month continually and with guns that have been prohibited since 1988.


  224. Mr Johnson, can I just clarify something. You were on about knowing who has got what on which certificates. You will be aware that there is an obligation under the 1997 Act to establish a national register. I do not know whether you heard last week Mr Hart from ACPO explain to us the great difficulties they are having in trying to get their proposals up and running. Do you share my concern that this is taking such a long time?
  (Mr Johnson) I share your concern, Chairman.

Mr Winnick

  225. I want to ask you about your recommendation that where the police refuse a licence or a Revocation Order is made then that person in your view should be able to go to a specialist tribunal. Is that right?
  (Mr Johnson) At the moment there is only one avenue and that is the Crown Court. It makes sense everywhere else in life. For example, in industry we have tribunals that resolve issues without the recourse to law and that is all we are saying. This is an example of where there is an opportunity instead of going to law to try and resolve some of these issues in a non-confrontational way.

  Chairman: Beware, Mr Johnson, there may be lawyers on this Committee.

Mr Winnick

  226. So a police officer could look into all the circumstances in reaching a decision that a person should not have a gun or, having had one, that should be revoked. Nevertheless, you believe that should not be the final decision but a tribunal should be set up accordingly, is that right?
  (Mr Johnson) No. Any tribunal would at least begin to gather a body of decisions and be of benefit. You heard Mr Hart say last week about things like enforcement being dependent upon the attributes of a particular chief constable because, as you know, chief constables are independent officers and cannot be directed by the Home Secretary. We see situations where decisions are made here today, there tomorrow and somewhere else the next. We are saying there should be an opportunity to resolve some of these issues without recourse to law. We are not taking away the right of the Chief Constable at the end of the day, if he wishes, to refuse or revoke, but at least there would be a body which would be an intermediate step.

  227. Do you accept a scenario wherein if Hamilton, the mass murderer, had his certificate taken away, which I think you would agree should have happened, he would have gone to such a tribunal and argued the case and may well have won that case?
  (Mr Johnson) I am not sure he would, Chairman. The biggest fears about Hamilton were amongst shooters themselves. They knew Hamilton. There was no line of communication between them and the police and that is where the problem lies. I do not believe that Hamilton would have won at a tribunal.

  228. We do not know. It would have been one more opportunity for him, had the police taken the decision we would all have liked, to be able to have a further appeal. You agree with that, obviously. Had the police acted as we would have liked—
  (Mr Johnson)—he would never have been granted a certificate, sir.

  229. Had your tribunal existed there would have been one more opportunity for him to argue his case that he was a law abiding citizen.
  (Mr Oliver-Bellasis) I think it is exactly the reverse. If that had gone to something similar to a Lands Tribunal which has worked in my industry over a very long period everybody accepts the police would have welcomed it because it would have taken out of their hands an extraordinarily difficult decision which we all understand they were under pressure to give. Could I also add, Chairman, that the national database is extraordinarily important and with great respect to the Assistant Chief Constable who gave evidence last week, the difficulties of putting it in place are perceived rather than practical.

  Chairman: We are going to do our best to encourage the police to carry out that bit of the Act. Gentlemen, thank you very much for your help. As ever, you have given us a lot to think about and I hope your cold gets better as quickly as mine, Mr Gill.

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