On 12 August 2021, gunman Jake Davison killed his mother and four members of the public, including a three-year-old child, in one of the worst mass shootings in British history. He used a shotgun which was licensed to him by Devon & Cornwall Police in 2017, and which was handed back to him one month before the shootings, Devon & Cornwall Police having seized it in September 2020 following a brutal and unprovoked attack on two children in a park.
The inquests into the victims’ deaths concluded today. The jury found wide-ranging systemic failings in the national and local gun licensing process, which they described as “catastrophic”. Having found that each victim was unlawfully killed, the jury found:
“The death was caused by the fact that the perpetrator had a lawfully held shotgun; the following contributed to this position.
- There were serious failures by Devon & Cornwall Police [Firearms and Explosives Licensing Unit (FELU)] in granting and, later, failing to revoke the perpetrator’s shotgun certificate.
- In licencing the perpetrator to have a shotgun there was a serious failure by Devon & Cornwall Police to protect the deceased.
- There was a failure of Devon & Cornwall Police to have in place safe and robust systems. Foremost, the training of FELU staff, governance of the FELU, quality assurance of FELU staff’s decision-making and ensuring decisions were made at the correct level.
- There was a failure by Devon & Cornwall Police FELU staff to obtain sufficient medical information in respect of the perpetrator’s application for a shotgun certificate and also on review.
- There was a failure by Devon & Cornwall Police FELU staff to properly seek out and consider all the relevant evidence and information available before deciding whether to grant the perpetrator a shotgun certificate.
- Following the perpetrator having assaulted two children in 2020, there was a failure by Devon & Cornwall Police to protect the public and the peace. Firstly, within the Local Investigation Team regarding the [unreasonable decision to charge the assault as battery] and secondly, within the FELU to sufficiently investigate whether it was safe to return to the perpetrator his shotgun and certificate after initially seizing them.
- Incorrect application of the [force’s] risk matrix meant there was a serious failure by Devon & Cornwall Police to implement an adequate system to ensure that the decision whether or not to (i) grant or (ii) return a shotgun certificate following review, was made or approved by a manager of sufficient seniority.
- A lack of national accredited firearms licensing training has and continues to fail to equip police staff to protect the public safety.
- There was a catastrophic failure in the management of the FELU, with a lack of managerial supervision, inadequate and ineffective leadership. This was compounded by a lack of senior management and executive leadership who failed to notice or address the issues.”
The jury’s full narrative conclusions can be found here.
Dominic Adamson KC and Juliet Wells represented the families of the members of the public killed by Jake Davison, instructed by Patrick Maguire of HCC Solicitors. Their clients’ press statement can be found here.
This case has received extensive press coverage:
View External Link