Guns Taken By Essex Police In Abuse Fear

Essex Police has removed 220 guns from licensed firearms holders suspected of being involved in domestic violence in a bid to prevent murders.

Essex Police said they acted following a series of incidents elsewhere in the UK in which lawfully held firearms had been used in domestic-related murders and other serious incidents.

Recent high-profile cases include that of licensed gun-holder Christopher Parry, 50, who murdered his estranged wife, Caroline, 46, in Newport, South Wales, last year following the breakdown of their 27-year marriage.

Concerns were also expressed over the relationship history of Cumbrian gunman Derrick Bird, who shot 12 people dead in 2010.

North Norfolk Council leader Keith Johnson, 58, shot his wife Andrea, 44, dead at their home near Cromer last year before turning the gun on himself - although in this case it was his wife who was licensed to hold guns. Police later discovered a long history of violence in their relationship.

Deputy Chief Constable Derek Benson said Essex Police had checked if any firearms licence-holders had been responsible for domestic abuse, even if they had not been arrested, charged or been found guilty of an offence.

Inspector Neal Miller said: "We prioritised the cases, focusing on the highest risk first, and began visiting the holders to check on their suitability.

"We also made our approach much more victim-based so that they had an opportunity to say whether they believed their partners or family members should be allowed to keep their guns.

"Throughout the whole process we also worked closely with our safeguarding team to make sure an appropriate safety plan was in place around any domestic abuse victims.

"We also found that when firearms were removed from homes, some victims then felt able to disclose further details of domestic and sexual abuse they had suffered because they were reassured we were taking action."

All of the county's 24,500 licence holders were reviewed and 777 people were visited to check whether they were suitable to own weapons.

A total of 24 had their licences revoked and 26 surrendered their licences - leading to the seizure of 220 shotguns and other firearms.

A further 86 owners were given warnings about how to store their guns.

Mr Miller added that licence-holders would now be routinely reviewed following claims of domestic violence.

He said one licence-holder had challenged the decision in court but Basildon Crown Court upheld Essex Police's decision.