Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 260 - 268)



  260. Again assessed by someone experienced within a club?
  (Mr Degenhard) Yes.

  261. You say in your memorandum that the police do not have discretion to apply limiting conditions on a shotgun certificate. I am trying to understand what you are after there. Is this another way of saying there should be a fitness test of the applicant?
  (Mr Degenhard) Yes. There are lots of people in agricultural and country circles who have totally legitimate reasons for having shotguns. The RSPCA has less of a problem with shotguns than we have with air guns. Generally shotguns are not the major issue to us. They only become an issue when we pick up the injured animal later, albeit a pheasant, a rabbit, a fox or whatever and it is quite clear that the person discharging the shot used an inadequate charge or inadequate sized shot to kill the animal. There are other incidents where we may have a pheasant or another game bird or animal we pick up which has one or two pellets in it. I appreciate there is no such thing as 100 per cent accuracy, but because of the high incidence of these that turn up we cannot help but think that a little more care and discipline and not taking long shots would have helped. I think that should be part of the discipline and part of the training.

  262. Mr Degenhard, is there anything you would like to add?
  (Mr Degenhard) There was a reference made in our memorandum to the Firearms Amendment Act 1997. We were concerned when that piece of legislation was being developed that it seemed to be only at the latter stages that there was any consideration given to the humane killing of animals which needed to be killed. Section 3 of that Act was created and for the first time ever the expression "humane killing of animals" was used in legislation. Prior to that there had always been a reference to slaughter. That now comes under section 2 and this comes under section 3. On three occasions in one year I was called upon to support a decision by the police where certificates had been refused by people who were using an unsuitable weapon or unsuitable type of ammunition or amount of ammunition and they appealed to the Crown Court and on all three occasions the Court found in favour of the police. My observation here is that the words "competent person" ought to be included in section 3 against the words "humane killing of animals".

  263. But there are going to be circumstances, are there not, in the context of humane killing where the last shot might be more appropriate by delivery of a handgun at close range?
  (Mr Degenhard) Yes. With respect, the only reason you could have that handgun is for this purpose and therefore that should be stipulated within the legislation. That person should prove their competence because we have had a lot of incidents where people have retained handguns and we have seen a lot of badly shot animals and we would rather that was not perpetuated.

  264. Are you able to say anything to us, please, about the minimum calibre of weapons for humane killing?
  (Mr Degenhard) I am talking here about a range of animals and I am mainly involved in domestic cases even though we do shoot a lot of deer. For a range of animals, from foxes, badgers, dogs, right up to bulls, providing the shot is actually fired at point blank range the standard .32 shot is sufficient. There are some instances with large boar and large rams, such as Suffolk rams which have particularly thick skulls, and some large goats, where a larger calibre may be more suitable or shooting from a less conventional angle, like in the back of the head as opposed to the front, may be a more suitable approach. But generally across the board, we have something in the region of 280 inspectors with .32 pistols and I can tell you in the last nine years we have only had one problem and that was shooting a Suffolk ram.

  265. Is it not the case that certainly in other parts of Europe there is a disagreement about .32s; they like .38s?
  (Mr Degenhard) Yes, .38s. It was a veterinary committee which came out with this statement which very shortly after was reviewed. They then restricted that to cattle; .38 was the minimum shot for cattle but that was for slaughter purposes, it was not for humane killing.

  266. As far as cattle are concerned, where does that leave the captive bolt pistol?
  (Mr Degenhard) Again, most of our inspectors have the captive bolts. In February 1998, captive bolts were effectively deregulated because they got carried along with the wave of enthusiasm following the 1997 amendments to the Firearms Act, and inadvertently became a section 5 firearm. A captive bolt is less dangerous than a Hilti nail gun and it was not so much a change in the law as a change in police advice and interpretation. It was regarded not to be a lethal barrelled weapon from February 1998, so it was effectively deregulated and you do not need a firearms certificate for it.

  267. Is there anything left you want to add, Mr Degenhard?
  (Mr Degenhard) Just to emphasise that in all of these disciplines I think tremendous emphasis ought to be put on competence.

  268. Yes. Thank you very much indeed.
  (Mr Degenhard) Thank you.

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