Medical history to be checked as gun licence rules are tightened

There has been a change in policy for people wanting a firearms licence in Essex Picture: GETTY IMAG

Police will now check someone's medical history before issuing a gun licence - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Police will have to check someone's medical history before issuing a gun licence, the government has confirmed. 

From November 1, all firearms applications must be accompanied by a medical document signed by a registered, practising doctor, the Home Office said.

New statutory guidance, which was published on Wednesday, sets out how any relevant health records - particularly any information on mental health, neurological conditions and substance abuse - will have to be reviewed as part of the process.

It means police, for the first time, will be legally required to follow the guidance to help improve standards and consistency across forces in the UK.

Police have also been told to review an applicant's social media accounts and financial history as well as carry out domestic violence checks in cases where officers believe more evidence is needed before authorising a licence.

Peter Hartshorne-Jone has been given a life sentencing for killing his wife Silke at their home in Barham last year.

Peter Hartshorne-Jones has been given a life sentence for shooting his wife Silke at their Barham home - Credit: Archant/Facebook/Suffolk Constabulary

Today, gun dealer Peter Hartshorne-Jones, 52, was sentenced for shooting his solicitor wife Silke, 42, dead at their farmhouse in Barham in May 2020. 

Hartshorne-Jones was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of eight years under Section 45a of the Mental Health Act. This will commence in a psychiatric hospital where he will remain indefinitely until such time he is deemed fit to be transferred to prison.

Ipswich Crown Court previously heard how he failed to disclose a history of depression before renewing his last batch of firearms certificates. 

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Hartshorne-Jones first got a shotgun certificate in 2000 and it was renewed in 2015. He also obtained a firearms dealer registration in 2010.

The court heard he had answered "no" to a question on firearms certificate applications in 2000 and 2015 about whether he had ever received treatment for a mental health condition.

However, it had since been found that there were episodes of depression recorded in his medical notes prior to the applications.

Although the UK has some of the toughest firearms laws in the world, home secretary and Essex MP Priti Patel said "we must never become complacent about these high standards", adding: "This new guidance prioritises public safety above all else and we have taken considerable care to ensure it is comprehensive and enforceable, having worked closely with the medical, policing and shooting sectors."

The British Medical Association, which helped develop the guidance, said it makes clear doctors are responsible for providing medical evidence but the police force will make the final decision on issuing the licence.

A spokesman for Suffolk police said: “We welcome the statutory guidance issued by the Home Office which will make medical checks for all certificate applicants mandatory.

"This will further enhance the system of checks made on those who wish to possesses firearm and shotguns and assist in keeping the public safe."