Examination of Witnesses (Questions 277
WEDNESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2002
277. Chief Constable and Mr McCausland, you
are very welcome. It is a very pleasant surprise to have you with
the Committee rather sooner than we expected, but nonetheless
welcome for that. I hope you will not be in any way put off by
your first visit that you will be reluctant to come back again
because I know we shall want to talk to you about many other matters.
For now we are concentrating on the control of firearms in Northern
Ireland and the draft Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order. Article
5 of that order provides for you to be satisfied of an applicant's
competence in handling a firearm before granting a certificate.
This is something rather new in the concept of all this. We asked
Commissioner Hart about this. He deferred to you for review and
said he thought it might administratively not be that easy.
(Mr Orde) With the greatest respect to Commissioner
Hart may I deal with that at a number of levels. In terms of the
full-bore and rifle club weapons, I see no change there in terms
of current practice, which is ensuring that those who wish to
own such weapons have completed a recognised course, for example
in deer management, which is provided by the British Association
for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), which covers all the issues
around safe storage, handling and proficiency of such weapons.
These are at the top end of the most dangerous weapons available
and need to be properly controlled. In terms of target weapons
and a similar type, then we need a letter of support from a club
official certifying the capability and competence of a member
before we would want to issue such a certificate. At the lower
end, the 0.22 rifle, here we are looking at the need for the initial
firearms dealer instruction in basic storage and handling skills
for first-time applicants, which will be allowed under the new
Order, and a certificate to the effect that that has taken place
so the individual has had some training. In terms of issuing licences
for vermin and predator control, then I have also looked to put
a condition on the licence that first-time applicants are supervised
by a named and experienced tutor, which under our definition would
be someone who has held a licence for a period of two years.
278. Would you be satisfied with the question
of the firearms dealer having an interest in certifying the man
as competent otherwise he would not be able to sell him the firearm?
Is there a conflict of interest there possibly?
(Mr Orde) Slightly, I think. What we are looking at
is that I am also allowed to put conditions on firearms dealers
and we are looking with the NIO at a course which we would require
them to go through before we were happy to give them a licence,
so we were satisfied they had the skills and competence. Yes,
there is a potential conflict but it is an additional control
which is of great value to me in putting additional constraints
on people who handle these lethal weapons.
279. The other side of the argument which has
been put to us quite forcefully is concerned that competency is
not well enough defined and that you might not have the resources
to police this.
(Mr Orde) The Order gives me additional and very valuable
powers to delegate some of these responsibilities to trained civilians
which will give me better value for money and potentially more
people employed. I am also looking at a quite substantial investment
in IT systems so we have a control process in place. In terms
of the length of time for which a licence may be issued we do
recognise the potential, where we can actually shorten that so
it will not necessarily be five years in the beginning but three,
four or five years, to put some extra controls in place. Competency,
by definition, will be a subjective thing. We can put some controls
on it. It will not be a perfect science.