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Written Answers - Firearms Licences

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 754 No. 3

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 387.  Deputy Jonathan O’Brien Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien  asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  his plans to address recent Garda behaviour in the issuing of gun licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6776/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I take it the Deputy is referring to a recent High Court case involving Judicial Reviews of decisions by Chief Superintendents in firearms cases. What was at issue were decisions by Chief Superintendents to refuse applications for licenses for high calibre handguns. That case was settled with no admission of wrongdoing on the part of the State but with an undertaking to consider applications afresh and give reasons to applicants where applications are turned down.

[498]In the light of issues which arose in those proceedings I sought a report from the Garda Commissioner. I have now received a detailed interim report. The Commissioner has indicated that he shares the concern expressed by the Judge in the case about the alteration of documents after proceedings had commenced and, in the first instance, has sought an explanation as to the circumstances in which this occurred.

In the case of the evidence given by another member of An Garda Síochána, the Commissioner has indicated that, while an issue did arise in relation to the completion of parts of the application forms, he is satisfied that the applications were decided in accordance with that person’s understanding of the relevant firearms legislation, decisions were recorded in notifications to applicants, and those decisions were informed by understandable concerns of public safety in the light of the difficult situation concerning crime in his Division. The Commissioner points out that the parts of the forms in question are not a statutory requirement under the Firearms legislation and are geared towards the requirements of recording data on the PULSE system through the ticking of a number of boxes.

The Commissioner is addressing as a matter or urgency the whole process of firearms licensing and the administrative functions associated with it in the light of the outcome of those Court proceedings. The Commissioner has assured me that he, of course, accepts fully the desirability of application forms being completed fully and properly and has indicated that as part of that review he intends to remove any impediments being experienced by his Officers in achieving this. The Commissioner is to report to me again when he has completed that review.

Tragically, the House will have been reminded in recent days of the dangers which licensed firearms can pose for members of An Garda Síochána and others. For my part, I am determined to ensure that in the operation of the firearms licensing system, the question of public safety is paramount.

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