GUN OWNERS should declare police cautions when applying for licences, a watchdog said yesterday, in the wake of a case where a taxi driver with a history of violence killed three women with a legally-owned weapon.
Michael Atherton, 42, killed his partner Susan McGoldrick, 47, her sister Alison Turnbull, 44, and Alison’s daughter Tanya, 24, following a row at his home in Durham on New Year’s Day last year, then shot himself in the head.
He had six legally-owned guns despite having a history of drunken domestic violence and threatening to “blow his head off” in 2008.
Police had been called out to his address four times to claims of domestic violence, and on one occasion he had received a caution. However he was not obliged to declare this on his gun licence application.
Yesterday police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said that anyone with a caution should be made to declare it. In a number of national recommendations made in the wake of the Atherton case, the IPCC said: “The Home Office should consider that applicants be required, as part of the application procedure, to disclose all cautions, bind-overs and fixed penalty notices.”
The watchdog highlighted the lack of guidance around domestic violence cases, and said that there is no advice saying partners and relatives should be consulted over gun licences.
It said: “The Home Office, Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the College of Policing should devise clear guidance and tighter restrictions around applications for firearms or shotgun certificates where there have been previous allegations of domestic violence or incidents which have not resulted in convictions.
“Checks with police Domestic Violence Units should be a mandatory requirement for all new applications.”