Refusal, Revocation and Appeal

AuthorLaura Saunsbury/Nick Doherty

Chapter 5

Refusal, Revocation and Appeal

5.01 This chapter deals with both firearm and shotgun certificates as, following the F(A)A 1988, the criteria for obtaining a certificate are very similar, save that the ‘good reason’ for requiring shotguns is less onerous than that for firearms. Firearms law is the same across Great Britain (but not Northern Ireland) and what is said here will generally apply to Scotland as it does to England and Wales. Scottish readers and lawyers may wish to consider the judgment in a Scottish case1to be aware of some differences in the procedure relating to appeals north of the border. The appeal process also covers the certificate of registration as a firearms dealer (RFD). Where there are differences, they are identified, but in general the following applies to both types of certificate and an RFD.


5.02 The police are entitled to refuse to grant or renew, or to revoke, your certificate in the following five instances:

(a) If they have reason to believe that you are of intemperate habits or unsound mind or are otherwise unfitted to be entrusted with a firearm.2

(b) If they have reason to believe that you can no longer be permitted to have the firearm or ammunition to which the certificate relates in your possession without danger to the public safety or to the peace.3

(c) If they are satisfied that you are prohibited by the FA 1968 from possessing a section 1 firearm.4

1Luke v Little 1980 SLT 138, Sheriff Kermack.

2FA 1968, s 30A(1), (2)(a).

3FA 1968, ss 30A(1), (2)(b), and 34(2) for RFDs. For a commentary on the meaning of ‘danger to the public safety or to the peace’, see para 5.39 and in detail at para 4.10 et seq.

4FA 1968, s 30A(1), (3). This arises if you have been given certain punishments by the courts; see para 5.60 et seq, ‘Prohibited persons – applications to remove a prohibition under section 21’. For the definition of a section 1 firearm, see paras 1.05 and 3.01 et seq.

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(d) If they are satisfied that you do not have, or no longer have, a good reason5

for possessing, or for buying or acquiring,6the firearm or ammunition which you are authorised by the certificate to possess, purchase or acquire.7

(e) If you fail to comply with a notice from the police requiring you to deliver the certificate to them for variation of its conditions.8

With regard to shotgun certificates, and also dealers, the only statutory criteria for refusal or revocation are grounds (b) and (c) in the above list. In relation to an RFD, the police can further refuse to register, or de-register you, if they are satisfied that you will not engage in business to ‘a substantial extent’ or ‘as an essential part of another trade business or profession’.9The registration of firearms dealers, and refusal thereof, is considered in more detail in Chapter 16.

5.03 The FA 1968 now provides for the partial revocation of firearm certificates. The police may partially revoke your certificate if satisfied that you no longer have a good reason for possessing, buying or acquiring10the firearm or ammunition to which the partial revocation relates.11

5.04 If your certificate is revoked for any of the reasons given in grounds (a) to
(d) above, the police may by written notice require you to surrender to them forthwith the certificate and any firearms and ammunition in your possession by virtue of it.12Failure to do so is an offence.13

5.05 Where your firearm certificate is partially revoked, the police notice will require the surrender of the certificate alone (so it can be varied), and failure to

5As a ground for revocation, this only applies to firearm certificates and bizarrely not to shotgun certificates, despite the requirement to demonstrate good reason to acquire a shotgun certificate in the first place. For a commentary about ‘good reason’, see para 3.78 et seq. This applies to firearms, but see the comments as to ‘good reason’ in relation to shotguns at para 4.20 et seq and para 4.29, fn 52.

6‘Acquire’ is defined to mean hire, accept as a gift or borrow (FA 1968, s 57(4); F(A)A 1988, s 25(1)).

7FA 1968, s 30A (1), (4).

8FA 1968, s 30A(1), (5). For such a notice, see further para 3.87 et seq, ‘Conditions imposed upon firearm certificates’.

9FA 1968, s 34(1A).

10‘Acquire’ is defined to mean hire, accept as a gift or borrow (FA 1968, s 57(4), F(A)A 1988, s 25(1)).

11FA 1968, s 30B(1), (2).

12F(A)A 1988, s 12(1); FA 1968, s 30D(5).

13The maximum punishment on summary conviction is 3 months’ imprisonment, or a fine at level 4 on the standard scale (currently £2,500), or both (F(A)A 1988, s 12(2)).

do so within 21 days from the date of the notice is an offence.14If you appeal

against partial revocation, the requirement to surrender your firearm certificate is suspended, unless the appeal is abandoned or dismissed, when the 21-day period will instead run from the date of such abandonment or dismissal.15

5.06 There is also a right of appeal where the police refuse to grant a variation of your firearm certificate for which you have applied,16i.e. to acquire additional firearm(s) and/or calibres/quantities of ammunition. This will usually arise where the police are not satisfied you have demonstrated good reason for the additional firearm(s)/ammunition you wish to acquire.

5.07 However, it should be noted that there is no provision in the Firearms Acts to appeal against a decision of the police to impose or vary conditions on a firearm certificate, nor against the police refusal of an application to vary or remove firearm certificate conditions. By contrast, the law does provide RFDs with a right of appeal against the imposition or variation of conditions on their certificate, or the refusal of the police to grant the dealer’s application for removal or variation of any such conditions.17

5.08 Further, where any firearm certificate is revoked because of the failure of the holder to comply with a 21-day notice requiring him to surrender his certificate for the conditions to be amended, there is no right of appeal against such revocation. Consequently, if the police notify you that they require you to surrender your firearm certificate for the purpose of amending the conditions, you would be well advised to comply, irrespective of your view on the reasonableness or otherwise of the additional or varied conditions to be imposed. While it would of course be open to you to reapply following such a revocation, and to appeal if your application were refused, the police could then rely on your failure to cooperate with the licensing authority by not complying with the notice to surrender, and indeed that this amounts to a criminal offence, even if they did not actually prosecute you for it.

5.09 In relation to those police decisions which are not susceptible to appeal in the Crown Court, it would be possible to challenge them by way of ‘judicial review’ if it were totally unreasonable, for example, to have imposed such a condition in the circumstances. However, judicial review in the High Court is

14FA 1968, s 30D (1)–(3), (5). In a case of partial revocation, the police will amend the certificate and return it to you. The maximum punishment on summary conviction is a fine at level 3 on the standard scale (currently £1,000) (FA 1968, s 51(1), (2), Sch 6, Part I).

15FA 1968, s 30D(4).

16FA 1968, s 29(2).

17FA 1968, s 36(3).

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usually a far more costly process of litigation, and is therefore best avoided if at all possible.

5.10 Whatever the reasons for the refusal or revocation, the police ‘must give reasons for their decision’.18It is expected this will normally be in writing as part of the revocation notice and this letter is an important document which you should keep. Firearms licensing departments should always have the possibility of an appeal in mind and set out clearly in the letter the precise grounds on which they are refusing or revoking, not merely by reciting one or more of the statutory criteria, but with specific reference to the particular circumstances of the individual case. A failure to do so may be the subject of criticism by the court and may give rise to costs implications. The letter should advise you as to your right of appeal and will usually indicate the relevant Crown Court.

5.11 The police are also required to notify you in writing when varying a condition of a firearm certificate, and when requiring you to surrender a firearm certificate or shotgun certificate, or firearms and ammunition where your certificate has been revoked by them or cancelled by order of the court. The same applies to notices served on an RFD notifying an intention to remove from the register or requiring the dealer to surrender his certificate of registration.19You are well advised to keep all such correspondence from the police.

5.12 In most cases the police are not keen on seizing the weapons themselves (unless they think they are exhibits in a serious criminal allegation) and are usually content to allow your firearms and ammunition to be held by an RFD or another certificate holder nominated by you if that is possible. If you successfully appeal against the revocation, your certificate(s) will be returned to you, along with any firearms and ammunition held by the police. If the appeal is dismissed, the court has the power to make an order for their disposal, but this is unheard of in our experience. If no appeal is made, or an appeal is abandoned, the firearms and ammunition will be disposed of in such a manner as may be agreed between you and the police. In default of agreement, the police may decide on the method of disposal; but their decision must be notified to you and may itself be appealed against to the Crown Court. The court may either dismiss your...

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