Gun owner wins appeal against decision to revoke firearms licence over ‘association’ with convict son

A gun owner whose firearms certificate was revoked because his son is a convicted drug dealer has successfully appealed against the decision.

David Cameron, 59, was deemed “unfit” by Police Scotland to be entrusted with the weapon due to his “association” with a person involved in criminal activity, but a sheriff reinstated the licence after ruling that there was “no real risk to the public safety”.

Sheriff William Taylor QC heard that the pursuer, a married father-of-three who lives in Fort William, used his firearms for vermin control and shooting foxes, hares, rabbits and mink, while he also earned money hiring his services for deer management on local estates.

The pursuer was accepted to be a person who had a good reason for having in his possession the firearms and ammunition and agreed to be a person who was not prohibited by the Firearms Act 1968 from possessing a firearm.

A member of a 30-member syndicate who also worked for the Forestry Commission, he had held a firearms certificate from 2005 until 2015, when he was informed that his certificate had been revoked and his firearms were to be seized.

In the entire period from 2005 to 2015 there had not been a single incident concerning the pursuer’s possession or storage of firearms or ammunition.

But he was informed that the revocation was brought about due to his “association” with a person involved in drug dealing, namely, his 36-year-old son Michael, who was sentenced to six years imprisonment after being convicted under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 for supplying heroin.

Prior to his imprisonment the pursuer’s son had resided in a flat above the garage which comprised a separate building within the pursuer’s garden.

The gun cabinet, which was located upstairs in the pursuer’s house some distance from the garage, was secured by three locks each requiring a separate key and was bolted from the floor and to the wall, although acting on police advice he replaced one of the locks with a digital lock to which only he knew the code.

But police were concerned that his son, who was due to be released in June 2017 and who had been granted leave to visit the family home in preparation for for his release, could gain entry to the gun cabinet.

However, after hearing evidence, Sheriff Taylor ruled that Mr Cameron was not an “associate” of his son as described by the detective inspector who made the decision, who it was noted had never met any of the individuals concerned whether police officers or applicants or witnesses.

“The exercise which he conducted was entirely a paper exercise,” the sheriff said, adding: “In my view what he failed to recognise was that the statutory tests which required to be met in terms of the 1968 Act, were subject to the particular circumstances of any individual case.”

The only question for the court was whether or not the pursuer could be permitted to have the firearm or ammunition in his possession without danger to the public safety or the peace.

In a written judgment, Sheriff Taylor said: “There was no evidence whatever that the pursuer had been a cause of concern to the police in connection with his possession of a firearms certificate, his use of weapons, or his storage of his firearms and ammunition.

“Whether the tests laid down in the statute are met in any case will depend on the particular circumstances of the case.

“Danger to the public safety or to the peace must be shown to be a danger related to the possession of a shotgun. Whether the conduct does or does not yield the conclusion that the pursuer cannot be permitted to possess a firearm without danger to the public safety or to the peace depends on the nature of the conduct in question when set against the circumstances of the individual case.

“On the evidence presented to me in court I am satisfied that there is no real risk to the public safety or to the peace if Mr Cameron continues to hold a firearms certificate and to continue to make use of firearms and ammunition in the way he has done for a considerable number of years.”