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30 September 2014
Police under resourced for licensing of air weapons

Police under resourced for licensing of air weapons

Police Scotland does not have enough resources at its disposal to administer a new licensing system for air weapons across Scotland, senior officers have warned.

Under the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill, which was introduced to parliament in May, a new licensing system for air weapons is to be rolled out.

If implemented, it will be an offence for a person to use, possess, purchase or acquire an air weapon without holding a valid air weapon certificate.

The Law Society of Scotland has today published their response to the Bill, labelling the proposed licensing scheme impractical and unable to reduce air weapon crime.

Now the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), while supportive of the need for stricter control of air weapons, has warned that existing staffing and IT systems will not be able to deal with the increase in workload.

“The police do have the knowledge and experience however the capacity of the infrastructure to deal with the increase in workload cannot be accurately estimated at this time,” says the Federation in a submission published by the Local Government and Regeneration Committee. “It is our belief that without additional resources the service will struggle to deal with this additional demand.”

The Federation, which represents 98 per cent of all police officers across Scotland, agreed that the current Licensing and Violence Reduction Division within Police Scotland has a “well-established, trained and experienced team who operate the current licensing system”.

However, their submission adds: “Whilst this may be true the capacity of this team to deal with an as yet unknown amount of additional work without significant disruption is at best doubtful.”

The SPF said it is “highly likely that the increase in work that will be generated for the officers working within the licensing system could not be delivered without significant disruption”.

Staffing levels quoted in the Bill also “fails to take cognisance of more remote areas of Scotland” where existing firearms licensing enquiries are dealt with by local police officers rather than those within the licensing service.

“Again it is hard to balance how any increase in the workload for this group of officers in the licensing service or for operational officers in the remote areas of Scotland can be achieved without an increase in staffing,” the submission adds.

Detailed work has yet to be undertaken with the software developer responsible for the IT system that Police Scotland have indicated will be used to include air weapon certification

“The current system is operating separately in each of the legacy force areas that operate Shogun, until the national system is populated then we cannot even be sure of the systems capabilities to deal with 60,000 database entries,” say the SPF.

“The number of new air weapon certificates cannot be quantified as yet, so the ability of an untested national system to increase its capacity remains unknown. The potential costs to develop the system with suitable software and storage could not be estimated until far more detailed and formal work was undertaken by Police Scotland and the developer.”

Until guidance is issued, it is “impossible to gauge what volume of work will be generated” from applications that require more extensive background checks and home visits.

The costs to police of the additional work in dealing with weapons handed in for destruction during the lead-in phase to air weapon licensing, their storage, transportation and administration have not been included, say the Federation.

MSPs on the Local Government and Regeneration Committee are due to take evidence on the Bill from the middle of November.

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