Norfolk police issue under 10s shotgun licences

Norfolk police have issued two shotgun certificates to children under 10 years old in the past 12 months, new figures have revealed.

Figures released by policing minister Nick Herbert show that more than 30 children aged under 10 in England and Wales were issued with shotgun licences in the past three years.

The statistics show that in 2011 Norfolk Constabulary and West Mercia Constabulary each issued two certificates to under 10s.

But in a statement issued in response to the figures, a Norfolk police spokesman said certificate holders under 15 must be supervised by someone aged 21 or over when in possession of an assembled shotgun – they were not allowed to own guns of their own which may tempt them to shoot unsupervised.

In most cases the adult supervisor will be the parent, guardian or a relative of the young person who are certificate holders and own shotguns.

The spokesman said: 'We follow national guidelines and Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) good practice when dealing with applications for the grant of shotgun certificates.

'We interview every person applying for a certificate as part of the process to ensure they are responsible enough to be allowed to possess shotguns and, in the cases of young people, we always include parents and guardians in our inquiries and ensure proper and effective supervision is in place.'

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The figures, which also showed 11 certificates were issued to under 10s last year, five in 2009 and 15 in 2008, were obtained by Labour MP Thomas Docherty, who has campaigned for a change in the law to set a minimum age for holding a shotgun licence.

The MP for Dunfermline and West Fife said: 'Society as a whole is deeply uncomfortable with the idea of a seven-year-old having access to a lethal weapon.

'I have not heard a single coherent argument for why a seven-year-old, who has no legal culpability, should be allowed to have unfettered access to fire a firearm.'

Mr Docherty, who earlier this year launched a parliamentary bid to ban under 14s from holding a licence, said senior police agreed with the need for a minimum age.

The Association of Chief Police Officers had argued that 10 would be a suitable minimum age.

Mr Docherty added: 'Do we have to wait until we get a tragic accident involving a seven or eight-year-old before we take action?'

The MP said he understood why people needed guns for land management and sporting purposes and stressed he was 'not trying to ban it'.