Firearms licensing officer had no formal training, inquest hears
The police officer who recommended Jake Davison get a shotgun certificate had received no formal training for his job, an investigation has found.
David Rees processed Davison’s application after applying for a license in July 2017 and made a formal recommendation along with a report, which he sent to a supervisor for approval.
The inquest, which was negotiated as part of the assessment process, Mr. Rees, a firearms investigator, asked Davison’s family doctor for information and spoke to a former teacher who was his referee.
He also spoke to the 22-year-old and his mother, as well as Davison’s uncle, who was a licensed shotgun keeper.
In January 2018, Davison received a shotgun certificate valid for five years, and in December 2020 it was confiscated along with his firearm after he assaulted two teenagers.
The certificate and weapon were returned on July 9, 2021.
On August 12, the apprentice crane operator killed his mother Maxine Davison, 51, three-year-old Sophie Martyn, her father Lee, 43, Stephen Washington, 59, and Kate Shepherd, 66, in the Keyham area of Plymouth.
The inquiry revealed that Mr Rees, a former armed police officer and Royal Marine, took up the role in the Devon and Cornwall Police Firearms Licensing Unit in May 2016 and worked there until November 2021.
He gave evidence and, after taking his role, told the jury that he had received no formal training in understanding the Home Office’s guidance on issuing firearms certificates or on domestic violence or mental health.
“Not what I would call training. The training was done in a mentoring/buddy system – learning on the job,” he said.
“No special training, none at all.”
Mr Rees said he had no prior knowledge of autism and Asperger’s Syndrome but did his own research after Davison provided the conditions in his application.
After reviewing all the information he had about Davison’s application, he wrote a report and sent it to his manager for review and approval, the witness said.
“I always thought it was a recommendation.
“I was never told the decision was mine, and I assumed someone would read it,” he said.
“We have to write a report.
“In my opinion, what’s the point of writing a report if nobody would read it?”
He said he was unaware that any of his cases had been “tested” for review by his line managers.
“I don’t recall the supervisor or manager raising any concerns about my job,” he said.
Mr Rees said he was unaware of meetings between the Home Office and the British Medical Association where GPs had expressed concerns they would be asked to provide a medical opinion on the suitability of an applicant for a gun license, outside their area of expertise.
He said it was “quite common” for GPs to refuse a request to provide medical information about an applicant.
The inquiry found Mr Rees had checked police records as part of his assessment and was aware of two assaults Davison committed as a student at Mount Tamar School.
In October 2020, at the age of 12, Davison attacked two teachers and “because of ongoing possible mental health issues that the mother refers to the GP and possible bullying at school.” Assaulted two teachers at school. After the incident subsided, he revealed that he “blew up his top” and was bullied at school and vented his anger on the wrong people. Will be dealt with by Restorative Justice.”
The report said he “put the teacher in a headlock twice” and was taken to an office where he “fought, spat on both teachers and headbutted one of the teachers.”
In a second incident, aged 13, he assaulted another student, “slapping him once in the face, causing visible injuries.”
Another 2015 police report recorded that there had been a “verbal argument” between Davison and his father, Mark, at his Biddick Drive home, during which his father was “thrown off the property by the son.”
The log noted that no crimes had been committed.
When asked how the school incidents formed part of his decision-making process, Mr Rees replied: “I wasn’t concerned because it happened at school and was dealt with internally through an apology.”
The investigation found it was more than two months after Davison attacked two teenagers in a park before his shotgun and certificate were confiscated.
A detective decided not to charge Davison and he was placed in a restorative justice program instead.
In an email, the police Pathfinder program worker said: “He has autism and also has anger management issues. Are you aware of this?
“Does that affect him being a suitable person to be a licensed shotgun holder? Can you let me know?”
Mr Rees said after receiving the email he decided to confiscate the certificate and gun but said a decision to revoke the license could only be made by a senior manager.
When asked why he did not recommend revocation, he replied: “Management’s expectation would be that I would wait for the Pathfinder program to end.
“If I had filed a report (for retraction), it would have been returned to me to await the results of the restorative justice program.”
Bridget Dolan KC, counsel for the investigation, suggested to Mr Rees that there was a “default position” in the department that licenses would not be revoked unless there was “extreme concern”.
“Yes,” replied Mr. Rees.
The investigation continues.