Armed officers from Nottinghamshire Police arrived at the home of gundog trainer Karl Sawyer last August. When he refused to hand his shotguns over voluntarily they left to get a revocation. When they returned the female officer was recorded on her bodycam saying ‘Under section 46 of the Firearms Act we are able to come into the property to recover those firearms if they believe you pose a danger.
Wrong paperwork, wrong reason, no warrant – but Karl was fooled into thinking he should hand over his shotguns. He surrendered two guns and, even though the officers knew they had the wrong paperwork and they entered his home without permission, they still took them.
Karl, who lives in Balderton near Newark, needs his guns for his work training gundogs. Now he has to rely on other shooters to bring their guns to training sessions.
As the officers came to his door Karl tried to hold on to his shotguns. They tried to bluster their way past him. A female officer said: “We’ve said it wouldn’t look favourably if he wouldn’t have voluntarily surrender on the basis of what was discussed about the Home Office.”
Karl told officers they hadn’t given him a good reason to take them. They explained the reason they were revoking his license is because he had refused to surrender his guns on their first visit and the changes in Home Office guidance meant his previous physical health problems were now a factor.”
Karl says: “I was shocked. I didn’t know anything about why, there was no previous warning. I was just in shock. Without the proper paperwork those two officers should have presented to me I was cautious about handing over two lethal weapons.”
Karl believes he was right to be hesitant because they couldn’t produce official paperwork. He says: “Because I didn’t hand them over because they didn’t have any proper paperwork they’ve revoked my certificate. If they’d have explained it properly in the first place, we wouldn’t have gone through all this. The certificate wouldn’t have been revoked in the first place there and then. And that is the fault of the police, not my fault. I showed caution as a responsible license holder.”
On bodycam footage, one officer is recorded saying that the revocation was for firearms not shotguns. Karl says he’s never held a firearms certificate as he has an SGC. Despite this Karl agreed to hand over his guns. He opened his front door and asked the officers not to come into his home, but when he went upstairs the officers stepped inside.
Former Detective Constable Iain Angus, who shoots game birds and clays, has been helping Karl in his battle with the police. He says: “When I first got the phone call from him on that Sunday afternoon, my exact words were to him ‘Don’t open the door. If they haven’t got a warrant, you don’t let in through the door’.
“Unfortunately, the solicitor he spoke to advised him otherwise and, once the Nottinghamshire police had seized his guns, that was the matter over and done with. They had control of the situation and they then started treating him absolutely appallingly as they did myself when I tried to arrange for the collection of the guns.”
Karl made an appeal to get back his shotgun certificate. He says: “I haven’t done anything, and I couldn’t think what had caused this visit, apart from the fact that we knew as the shooting fraternity knows, that the police overreacted when the tragedy happened in Plymouth. When things like this happen, the police over-react and they only seem to do it to shooters.’
Iain adds: “In my personal, professional position as a police officer, this has been an absolute cock up of the first order and nobody in Nottinghamshire police seems to want to have anything to do with it.”
The guns that the police took are worth around £6,000. Karl persuaded the police to release them to a registered firearms dealer. On his appeal, Karl says “Everything is biased against the shooter, against the shooting fraternity. The police are always against us. If we’ve got just cause to challenge them in court, no matter what we do, whether they’re right or wrong, we never get paid out of our expenses.”
Karl has since been forced to sell his guns to a friend to cover his legal bills. He is now dropping his appeal because he cannot afford the tens of thousands of pounds it will cost to go to crown court.
He wants his shotgun certificate back so he can continue working with gundogs without needing someone else to bring a gun to the training session. Karl says: “I’m frustrated, very frustrated. It makes me want to want to give up on what I’ve started and what I know I’m good at. But I need that gun as a tool.”
In a statement, Inspector Georgie Newton of Nottinghamshire Police says: “We cannot comment on individual cases. Nottinghamshire Police has strict processes for revoking firearm licences.”