Some of the recommendations made in the wake of the Dunblane massacre were not implemented by the police force which granted Jake Davison a firearms licence, an inquest heard.
A public inquiry into the 1996 killings of 16 pupils and a teacher said police staff assessing firearms applications should receive nationally recognised training.
But an inquest into the shooting of five people by Davison in Plymouth in August 2021 heard no relevant training had been undertaken within Devon and Cornwall Police for more than 20 years.
Steve Carder, a supervisor in the force’s firearms licensing unit, approved a recommendation from a colleague to grant the 22-year-old a licence in 2017.
He told the hearing in Exeter the only specific training he had done for firearms licensing had been a two-day course in 1998 and had not done anything on supervising the work of the firearms inquiry officers.
Bridget Dolan KC, counsel to the inquest, asked Mr Carder: “Does that suggest recommendations that came out of Dunblane in 1996 about firearms licencing staff getting as much training as possible has been simply forgotten about in your unit?”
“It would appear so,” he replied.
Ms Dolan asked: “It wasn’t just forgotten about for one or two years but for 22 years since the 1998 training?”
He replied: “Yes.”
Mr Carder told the jury his supervisory role would be to review “low risk” recommendations from firearms inquiry officers and everything else would be dealt with by a senior manager.
The inquest has heard that Davison’s application should have been considered as “high risk” and been assessed by more senior staff – and other people could have slipped through the net.
“Jake Davison was not the only one where you had a misunderstanding, where you had evidence of violence or medical suitability in the past, where it was still thought to give them a licence and that decision was not reviewed by a manager or supervisor above you?,” Ms Dolan asked.
Mr Carder replied: “Correct.”
As part of assessing an application, staff were to use a risk assessment matrix which gave scores for various factors, such as previous convictions and mental health issues, but staff were not using it.
Asked about the matrix, Mr Carder said: “I think it is fair to say the application of the risk matrix was not being used.”
Ms Dolan asked what he was using instead and he replied: “Relying upon my judgment.”
She suggested: “That wasn’t safe was it?”
He replied: “No.”
Davison killed his mother Maxine Davison, 51, three-year-old Sophie Martyn, her father, Lee, 43, Stephen Washington, 59, and Kate Shepherd, 66, in Keyham on August 12 – just weeks after having his pump-action shotgun and certificate returned by police.
Firearms inquiry officer David Rees processed the apprentice crane operator’s application and recommended its granting, which was countersigned by Mr Carder.
Although Mr Rees had attached an additional report to Davison’s application, Ms Dolan suggested there had been no proper assessment of his autism and further information should have been requested from the GP.
Mr Rees had written in the report “his GP is fully supportive and had no concerns” but the doctor had refused to assist the police.
Mr Carder accepted he should have gone back to Mr Rees and asked for more information about the three assaults Davison had committed at school.
“I should have picked up the phone and made sure everything was clarified in my head, but I didn’t because it wasn’t noted,” he said.
“Having looked back at the form since the incident I may have misread the report and made the wrong assessment.”
Dominic Adamson KC, representing the families of Davison’s victims, asked: “Your role to sign off applications had become in effect a box ticking exercise? It needed someone at your level to sign the forms.”
Mr Carder replied: “Correct.”
Mr Adamson asked: “You were not carrying out any meaningful analysis of the applications?”
He replied: “I was assessing ‘good reasons’ (to hold a certificate) of the applications but not to the degree of investigation that you’re alluding to.
“I don’t think I would use the word shambolic – it’s not good.”
Referring to the decision to grant Davison a licence, Mr Adamson said: “This was a disastrously wrong decision to issue that licence?”
“Yes,” Mr Carder replied.
The barrister suggested the grading of Davison as “very low” by Mr Rees “sends a shiver down the spine.
“If this was very low what does a high risk look like? What do you have to do to be characterised as high risk?”
He replied: “You have to pose a danger to public safety and the police.”
The inquest continues.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe