Exeter Crown Court could set a nasty legal precedent in October 2023. If Devon deerstalker Andrew Andrew loses his gun certificate appeal, police throughout the UK could revoke certificates without reason.
In August 2021, Andrew had his firearm and shotgun certificates renewed. A few days later, armed police came to his house at night and took away his guns, giving no reason for their actions.
Since then, Andrew, who is so law-abiding he has not even had a parking ticket, has been fighting to find out why. He finally got a court date but the police did not supply the correct papers so the judge has set a new court date, adding thousands of pounds of costs to Andrew. The police have to supply the correct papers at the beginning of July 2023.
The new court date will be 14 months after Andrew lost his guns. In the meantime, deer on the ground he manages have been breeding and causing thousands of pounds-worth of damage to forestry. However, the court doesn’t care about the damage to the countryside.
The court cares about a principle of English law called Public Interest Immunity (PII). Previously known as Crown privilege, PII is a principle of English common law under which the English courts can grant a court order allowing one litigant to refrain from disclosing evidence to the other litigants where disclosure would be damaging to the public interest.
Since 1937, shooters have been able to find out, via the appeals process, the reason police have for revoking or not issuing a shotgun or firearms certificate. Now, Devon & Cornwall Constabulary wants to hide behind PII.
The police have picked Andrew, who doesn’t have the money, to fund the court case that will lead to a change in the law. It means other shooters could lose their certificates at the whim of the police, with no recourse to the law. As Andrew says: “You can’t defend yourself if they don’t tell you what the problem is.”