Five innocent people were murdered, including a three-year-old girl, and two were wounded by a gunman who then took his own life despite the brave efforts of Devon & Cornwall Police officers.
This unthinkable tragedy has had, and will continue to have, profound repercussions on the families and friends of all those involved, and the wider community.
In February, a five-week inquest into the deaths of the five people killed that day concluded that a host of failings contributed to their deaths, after it was revealed the gunman had his shotgun certificate returned to him by Devon & Cornwall Police despite having previously attacked two children in a park.
Then, on August 12, 2021, the perpetrator went on to kill his own mother Maxine Davison, Lee Martyn and his daughter Sophie, Kate Shepherd, and Stephen Washington. My thoughts will always be with their families and all those who knew and loved them.
As a representative of a police force which has the largest number of firearms licences in the country, I have since called for significant changes to national firearms licensing to ensure that no family or community ever again has to endure such a horrific event. That is why I welcome the Government’s consultation into proposed changes to licensing which launched at the end of June and closed last week.
The consultation considered recommendations that were made by the senior coroner for Plymouth, Torbay and South Devon who held the inquest into the Keyham deaths, as well as the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and the Scottish Affairs Select Committee following its own review of regulations following a fatal shooting on the Isle of Skye in August 2022. I was pleased to see that the government are taking the recommendations of the Keyham coroner seriously.
The proposed changes will allow for more robust guidance for police, referees and GPs to support them in deciding on the suitability of a member of the public to hold a firearms licence, and I urge the Government to heed these concerns and recommendations to deliver lasting and effective change to the firearms licensing system.
While this consultation is a welcome first step towards much-needed reform, it is limited to guidance and process change.
It is imperative the Government now acts swiftly to review the firearms licensing fee structure so police forces can charge an amount that will meet the full cost of licensing as opposed to the current position of effectively subsidising leisure and business shooting.
A review can ensure forces have the resources to deliver safe and efficient firearms licensing processes.
I am pleased to have had this chance to help shape the future of firearms licensing across the country and I hope that the government will continue to work with me and the representatives of the people of Plymouth who have been affected by a failing in the national licensing system to ensure that lasting change can be achieved.
I have already welcomed the £500,000 the government has already committed to invest in national firearms licensing training. This is a strong step in the right direction towards officers making more robust decisions and shoring up public safety in our communities.
Support is still available for anyone affected by the events in Keyham from Plymouth Together at plymouthtogether.co.uk. Practical and emotional help for victims of crime in Devon and Cornwall can be accessed by calling Victim Support on 08081689111 or visiting victimcare-dc.org