2 Nov 2010

Cumbria shootings: Derrick Bird owned guns legally

“No reasonable opportunities” within the gun licensing system could have stopped taxi driver Derrick Bird shooting 12 people dead in Cumbria earlier this year, an independent review finds.


Cumbria shootings: Derrick Bird owned guns legally

Derrick Bird owned guns lawfully and firearms procedures conducted by Cumbria police were “robust” and properly administered, according to the findings of an independent review published today.

Cumbria Constabulary found that Bird lawfully held certificates for a side-by-side hammer action shotgun (pictured below) and a .22 rifle which he used to shot his victims.

Bird shot dead 12 people, including his brother David, in a shooting spree across West Cumbria on 2 June before turning the gun on himself. Following the shootings an inquiry was launched into how Cumbria Constabulary issued firearm licences.

Today’s report found that although Bird had a previous conviction, officers and other relevant agencies had no reason prior to the rampage to revoke Bird’s arms licences. The force’s firearms licensing procedures were “robust” and in line with the law and Home Office guidance, it added.

“There were no reasonable opportunities for the licensing system to have been the instrument of intervention to prevent the appalling offences subsequently committed,” the report found.

National policy

Following the shootings, the Chief Constable of Cumbria Constabulary, Craig Mackey, also called for an assessment of its firearms licensing procedures involving the whole of the county.

In his review the chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) Firearms and Licensing Working Group, Adrian Whiting, made a number of recommendations for national policy changes.

Mr Whiting recommended was that people who receive wholly suspended sentences of jail terms of three months or more would in future be automatically classed as a prohibited person and banned from holding a guns licence for five years.

Bird would have lost his shotgun certificate in 1990 under the proposed law change but would have been able to reapply for his licence.

Cumbria shootings: Derrick Bird owned guns legally

Bird ‘tried to recover third gun’

It was revealed today that Bird had tried to recover another of his shotguns shortly after he committed the first two murders, of his solicitor Kevin Commons, and his brother David.

The report found Bird gave the weapon to another certificate holder the night before the shootings but went to the person’s house to retrieve it during his spree.

A two-minute conversation was said to have taken place as the person refused to give Bird the shotgun.

Mr Mackey would not comment on whether the person was aware of the gunman’s intentions.

Bird fired 23 rounds from his .22 rifle and 31 12-gauge rounds from his shotgun. Today’s review pointed out that Bird had unlawfully shortened the barrels of his shotgun in the hours before the first murder.

Chequered past

The report revealed Bird obtained a shotgun certificate at the age of 16 in 1974. He also successfully applied for a firearms licence in 2007 for the .22 rifle.

In 1990 he was convicted of two counts of theft of decorating materials and one count of handling stolen goods from his then employer, British Nuclear Fuels Limited. He was sentenced to six months` imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, on each count concurrently.

Had the sentence not been suspended he would have become a “prohibited person” for five years under the Firearms Act 1968 and would have had to reapply for his shotgun certificate.

Eight years later, police investigated an argument he had with a girlfriend but neither party wished to make a complaint.

A year later in November 1999 he was arrested in relation to his job as a taxi driver when he approached someone who had not paid for a fare. Bird was arrested in connection with allegations concerning a demand for payment with menaces, and was released without charge following interview. There was no evidence to suggest he had acted with a violent nature.

Cumbria shootings: Derrick Bird owned guns legally