Epileptic clay pigeon shooter from Co Derry has gun licence revoked

Shooting
Shooting

An epileptic clay pigeon shooter has lost a High Court challenge to having his gun licence revoked.

The 39-year-old security guard from Co Derry had his firearms certificate (FAC) taken from him amid concerns about his medical condition and whether or not he properly declared it.

The man, who also has limited literacy skills, sought to judicially review Justice Minister David Ford’s decision in 2013 to reject an appeal against the police withdrawing his permit.

But a judge dismissed his case after rejecting claims that the action against him was unfair and irrational.

Mr Justice Horner said: “On the evidence, the Minister would have been entitled to conclude that the applicant had attempted to deceive the authorities by not disclosing his medical history... when he knew or should have known that it was his responsibility to do so.”

Publication of the man’s name is prohibited due to his father also keeping guns at the family home.

Described as coming from a strong country sports background, he is a member of two shooting clubs and also helps control vermin for local farmers.

He held a licence for three years before being informed of the revocation by the PSNI’s Firearms and Explosives Branch in November 2010.

His lawyers claimed the move followed an anonymous and malicious letter to police questioning the man’s health.

They argued that his client’s epilepsy is under full control and regulated by medicine.

Dealing with an allegation that the man knowingly or recklessly misstated his condition, his barrister cited his high degree of illiteracy and difficulties with filling in the forms.

It was contended that the Minister took his decision too quickly, failing to consider a subsequent medial report which set out how the epilepsy is being controlled.

But counsel for Mr Ford stressed the need to ensure licences are only given to this fit to use guns.

Throwing out all grounds of challenge, Mr Justice Horner said it had been irresponsible not to check the information was correct in every respect.

Rejecting a further point that the man’s human rights were breached, he added: “In the circumstances, the revocation of the licence was necessary to ensure that the health and safety of other persons was not endangered.”

Although he acknowledged how the applicant regarded it as important to indulge in his shooting hobby, the judge also stressed the “enormous effort and expense” the legal challenge involved.

He said: “In these times of austerity, and cutbacks in public funding, it might be thought that the effort, the expertise, the expense, the costs and the use of court resources cannot all be justified given the issues at stake in this type of case.”