Letter from HM Inspector of Constabulary
to the Clerk of the Committee
CONTROLS OVER FIREARMS INQUIRY
Thank you for your letter of 11 November and
for the opportunity to outline HMIC's inspection arrangements
in relation to the administration and control of firearms.
Under current arrangements, the inspection of
forces throughout England and Wales involves a series of preparatory
visits, culminating in a formal on-site inspection by one of Her
Majesty's Inspectors. The administration and control of firearms
is routinely included in every inspection and the process includes
interviews with key personnel and a detailed examination of data
and policy documents. The findings of the inspection, together
with any recommendations, are then made known to the Force and
the Police Authority by way of a formal report.
The emergence of "Best Value" and
the introduction of annual efficiency targets from April 2000
will, however, necessitate significant changes to the current
inspection process. The cycle of inspection will be reduced from
18 to 12 months and will be shaped around a series of detailed
protocols. These protocols will be closely linked to a diagnostic
model which should provide a more accurate focus for future inspection
activity. The new inspection model will include protocols which
specifically address the administration and control of firearms.
These are currently being prepared by HMIC and it is anticipated
they will be completed by the end of December, however it would
seem sensible to delay their finalisation in order to take account
of the Committee's findings.
The complexity of firearms legislation has led
to most forces appointing full time staff dedicated to licensing
issues. Whilst their procedural knowledge is often commendable,
in some cases they have become increasingly isolated and, without
adequate strategic direction and close monitoring by chief officers,
they often operate to their own individual standards; this in
turn leads to an inconsistency across forces. It is intended these
issues will be addressed by the introduction of the new protocols.
I hope the above information is helpful but,
if I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate
to contact me.
Colin Smith CVO CBE QPM
HM Inspector of Constabulary
26 November 1999