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Criminal investigation into force’s firearms licensing unit launched

IOPC sought specialist legal advice at conclusion of investigation into granting of shotgun licence to Jake Davidson

The Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall is being investigated for possible criminal offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in relation to the force’s firearms licensing unit the IOPC has confirmed.

A pre-inquest hearing at Plymouth Coroner’s Court into the mass shooting by Jake Davidson in August last year was told  the investigation would take some time but believed it would not affect next year’s inquest, which is due to begin in January.

Davison, 22, killed his mother Maxine, 51, after a row and then shot dead four others in a 12-minute attack in Plymouth.

The killings happened just weeks after the shotgun and licence had been returned to him. They had been seized in 2020 after Davison assaulted two teenagers in a park.

As part of the IOPC investigation, two members of staff have been served with gross misconduct notices, while an officer has been served with a misconduct notice.

“At the conclusion of our investigation into the force’s granting of a shotgun certificate and later return to Jake Davison of a shotgun, we sought specialist legal advice and have since decided to conduct a criminal investigation,” an IOPC spokesman said.

“Our investigation will examine whether the Office of the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, as corporation sole, may have committed any offences contrary to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

“We have advised the force, the Police and Crime Commissioner, the coroner and families of our decision.”

Edward Pleeth, a barrister representing the watchdog, told senior coroner Ian Arrow :“The IOPC has determined it is necessary to conduct that investigation,” 

“It is unlikely to be finished before the start of the inquest in January and the IOPC has undertaken to continue to provide your office with updates as the situation develops.

“IOPC investigations and any subsequent proceedings flowing from those play a central role in learning lessons and enabling those responsible to be held to account and it is in the public interest that these investigations, including this latest investigation, be able to reasonably run their course.

“We undertake to use best endeavours to ensure that this new investigation is completed as properly as possible, but it is likely as I say that a fair and comprehensive investigation will take some months and would not be finished before the start of the inquest.”

Jason Beer KC, representing the police, said he was not seeking to adjourn the inquests in light of the development as the force has committed through former chief constable Shaun Sawyer, who retired last month, to provide prompt answers to key questions.

“It has decided to start an investigation into some of the very matters that will be the subject of investigation and examination in your inquests,” he said.

“The families have described this position where the IOPC announced last Thursday that it was going to start its investigation as ‘far from ideal’.

“We’ve used the phrase ‘sub-optimal’. Both of them of course contain a very significant degree of understatement.”

Reports have suggested Davison’s mother had been struggling to get help for her son, having become concerned about his mental health. A previous hearing has heard she had reported him to the counter-terrorism Prevent programme.

Devon and Cornwall Police said in a statement: “Throughout the last year the force has co-operated fully with the IOPC investigation, the coronial process and commissioned and independent review of the force’s firearms licensing procedures by Durham Police.

“We are aware of the latest developments from the IOPC investigation and continue to co-operate fully with them, while considering next steps the force may choose to take on this matter.

“The force would note this development is in its early stages and no determination in terms of potential criminal culpability has been decided.”

A further pre-inquest review will take place on December 19.

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