Shooting enthusiasts win court battle over gun licences
MORE than 160 shooting enthusiasts were celebrating last night after the State settled a legal challenge on gun licences.
It means their rejected applications for restricted firearms will be considered again.
They had claimed their applications were being refused on a blanket basis by gardai without adequate reasons.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter last night asked the Garda Commissioner to produce a report on the operation of the firearms licensing system.
It comes after one of the country's most senior gardai admitted altering application forms for firearms licences.
Another senior garda responsible for issuing gun licences admitted, in a series of test cases brought by three sports enthusiasts, that he failed to complete mandatory sections on application forms.
The test cases, which will cost the taxpayer more than €500,000 in legal costs, were dramatically adjourned last week to allow the authorities to decide whether they could stand over the current firearms licensing system.
And yesterday, the State settled the actions, paving the way for 168 people refused firearms certificates to receive a new decision.
Last night, Mr Shatter said he was aware of issues that arose in the legal proceedings involving appeals against decisions of garda chief superintendents to refuse licences for large-calibre handguns.
However, he stopped short of ordering an independent inquiry.
"The minister has sought a full report from the garda commissioner on these issues," said a spokesperson for the Department of Justice.
"On the general issue of firearms licensing, the minister is determined to ensure that public safety is at all times the paramount consideration."
The National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC), which supported the test cases, said it was "outraged, but not surprised" at the behaviour of some senior gardai responsible for issuing restricted firearms licences.
"In light of the evidence placed before the High Court and the findings of Mr Justice (John) Hedigan in relation to same, NARGC now calls for fundamental changes to the licensing system to ensure transparency, fairness and the maintenance of public confidence in the safety and security provisions of the system," it said in a statement released after the terms of settlement were reached.
As part of the terms of settlement, the State has agreed to quash the decisions refusing restricted firearm certificates.
The applications will now be re-submitted for a fresh consideration.