Victory for country sports enthusiast as Judge quashes Minister's Decision in High Court judicial review
Worthingtons recently acted for a firearms owner whose certificate was revoked by the PSNI after they had discovered that he had temporarily stored his guns at his father’s home address. His father also is a firearms owner and has had the benefit of a firearms certificate in excess of 50 years. Both the client and his father had approved gun cabinets in their homes to allow for storage of their firearms. However, the client was concerned about the fact that his home would be vacant whilst he and his wife went on holiday on one occasion, and he chose in the interests of safety to relocate his guns to his father’s gun cabinet. He was only too aware of recent thefts involving firearms and he did not want to become a victim and for the guns to come into the wrong hands.
However, PSNI revoked his licence as they considered that by relocating his guns even on a temporary basis and even in the interests of security, the client had breached the conditions of his certificate by allowing an unauthorised person [ie his father] temporary access to them.
Worthingtons assisted the client in appealing the decision to the Department of Justice. However, the Minister refused his appeal at first instance.
We considered that there were grounds to apply for a Judicial Review of the Minister’s decision and we assisted the client in making this application to the Court. The case was ultimately heard by Mr Justice Treacy QC, and ruling on the application for Judicial Review, he overturned the Minister’s decision to refuse the client’s appeal, on the basis that the Minister had failed to afford the client proper opportunity to make representations in relation to the case against him. In particular, it had transpired during the course of the full hearing that the PSNI had sent a letter to the Department of Justice in the course of the client’s appeal to the Minister, stating that they suspected that the client had permanently stored his guns in his father’s house.
This letter was not disclosed during the currency of the appeal, and therefore the Judge concluded that the client was not fully aware of the case that he had to meet. Ultimately, Justice Treacy ruled that the Minister’s decision was procedurally unfair and the Department of Justice was also ordered to pay the client’s legal costs.
Both the client and Worthingtons are delighted by the result. Whilst ownership of firearms is of course a very serious matter, the Courts in this case have re-emphasised that the relevant authority, be that the PSNI or the local Minister, must exercise their regulatory powers in a manner which is legal, rational and fair.
If you have been affected by any of the issues dealt with in this article Brian Moss from our Litigation department will be happy to deal with any query you may have.