Scots legal elite firearms ownership revealed. AN INVESTIGATION into firearms ownership among Scotland’s legal fraternity - has revealed widespread firearms and weapons throughout the ranks of solicitors, advocates, prosecutors and the judiciary who run Scotland's legal system and the courts.
And, it can be revealed – 295 lawyers, advocates, judges, QCs & prosecutors collectively own more guns in their private collections than even Police Officers – as information now released by Police Scotland reveals 1,079 firearms, shotguns & air weapons in the hands of the legal fraternity - compared to 1,043 firearms and shotguns owned by 327 Police Officers.
The investigation was triggered by a recent case involving firearms offences committed by the Solicitor General For Scotland – Lord Keen of Elie (Richard Keen QC) who was convicted and find £1,000 for breaches of the Firearms Act 1968 after he pleaded guilty by letter to the charge at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 1 March 2017.
Keen, who once headed a failed legal challenge against the Scottish Government over legislation to speed up pay-outs to asbestos sufferers - was charged after police investigating a break-in at his Edinburgh home found that a 12-bore shotgun had been ‘left outside a secure cabinet’ while Lord Keen and his wife ‘were away on holiday’.
Lord Keen’s conviction for firearms offences, and the widespread ownership of firearms – including handguns - by members of Scotland’s legal fraternity - has drawn interest in the use of guns by Scotland’s wealthy legal establishment - who are known to favour the hunting & shooting set lifestyle with participation at shooting events at home and abroad.
And these are no ordinary weapons owned by Scotland's legal elite.
Shotguns popular with Scotland’s legal eagles - range from the relatively inexpensive to more costly ‘over & under’ & ‘side by side’ barrelled Browning, Beretta, matched pairs of expensive Purdeys and other expensive brands such as Holland & Holland, Army & Navy, and in the case of the Solicitor General for Scotland – a Stephen Grant 12 bore shotgun – which can sell for over £6,000.
Data seen by journalists also reveal ornate ‘Damascus’ etched barrelled weapons, expensive side-lock action shotguns, semi automatic weapons, and presentation piece quality shotguns, well out of reach of most shooting enthusiasts.
In relation to firearms, the legal establishment is similarly tooled up in numbers and quality of guns – ranging from handguns - and smaller .22 and .243 calibre rifles to high calibre firearms purposely designed for deer stalking.
Among the more lethal stocks of weapons owned by the legal fraternity are – according to firearms insiders - double ‘express’ (two barrelled) rifles – primarily designed for ‘taking down’ much larger beasts such as lions, rhino and even elephants.
And, the ownership of silencers for firearms among Scotland’s legal elite - is much more widespread than originally thought.
However, it can be revealed members of the legal fraternity own only 57 silencers for their ‘registered’ firearms - compared with a staggering 216 silencers owned by Police Officers – disclosed in part one of the firearms investigation revealing Police gun ownership.
Information obtained during the investigation has now been clarified by Police Scotland, who disclosed some details in response to a Freedom of Information request.
Police Scotland has revealed 8 Sheriffs and 8 Judges hold a selection of firearms, air weapons and shotguns.
Of the 8 certificates held by Sheriffs, 1 is for firearms, 5 are for shotguns and 2 are for air weapons are held by currently serving Sheriffs, totalling 2 firearms and 10 shotguns.
A further 8 senior ranking judges own a similar mixture of firearms, air weapons and shotguns.
In relation to the eight certificate held by judges, 1 is for firearms, 3 are for shotguns, and 3 are for air weapons, totalling 2 firearms and 5 shotguns.
Curiously - while Police Scotland readily disclosed information in relation to members of the judiciary owning firearms - the Judiciary of Scotland said in response to an FOI request that no member of the judiciary has declared any ownership of firearms or shotguns to either the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service (SCTS) or the Judicial Office.
The Judicial Office also refused to answer questions on judges’ membership of any hunting or shooting clubs or associations, participation in hunting trips including deerstalking and other firearms related activities within the UK or overseas.
While the judiciary remained tight-lipped on their stack of firearms & shotguns, Police Scotland has also released details on the firearms ownership of Scotland’s legal profession, where paralegals, solicitors, barristers, advocates, QCs and even prosecutors own over a thousand firearms, shotguns and air weapons.
4 paralegal certificate holders - hold 3 shotgun certificates and 2 air weapons certificates, holding a total of 5 shotguns.
6 barrister certificate holders - hold 2 firearms certificates, 4 shotgun certificates and 2 Air weapons certificates – holding between them 9 firearms with a further 3 silencers (sound moderators) and a total of 23 shotguns.
8 QC certificate holders - hold 2 firearms certificates, 8 shotgun certificates and two air weapons certificates – holding 6 firearms along with 2 silencers, and a total of 31 shotguns.
18 Advocate certificate holders - hold 4 firearms certificates, 18 shotgun certificates and 7 air weapons certificates – holding 9 firearms along with 3 silencers, and a total of 26 shotguns.
40 lawyer certificate holders - hold 12 firearms certificates, 25 shotgun certificates and 18 air weapons certificates – holding 55 firearms with 18 silencers and a total of 96 shotguns.
199 solicitor certificate holders - hold 51 firearms certificates, 146 shotgun certificates and 60 air weapons certificates – holding 100 firearms with 31 silencers, and a total of 393 shotguns.
Two court officer certificate holders - hold one firearms certificate and one shotgun certificate. Only one single firearm held is listed in this category.
Police Scotland also disclosed two Crown Office prosecutors of Procurator Fiscal rank hold 2 shotgun certificates, holding three shotguns in total.
It was not possible for Police Scotland to disclose further details of COPFS employees firearms, shotgun or air weapons usage, however it is known COPFS employees ownership of, and involvement with firearms shotguns and other weapons does exist = and to a more significant level than quoted in the Police Scotland FOI response.
Police Scotland also disclosed firearms ownership among Scotland’s political classes at Holyrood.
3 MSP certificate holders - hold 3 firearms certificates, 2 shotgun certificates and 1 air weapon certificates – holding 9 firearms with 3 silencers, and – Police Scotland claim – a total of 24 shotguns according to the FOI disclosure.
One Scottish Government Minister holds 1 shotgun certificate – and is in possession of 3 shotguns.
A further 3 “Members of Parliament” certificate holders - hold 2 shotgun certificates and 1 air weapon certificate, holding a total of 5 shotguns.
And one “Parliamentarian” holds a single shotgun certificate, and is in possession of 8 shotguns.
Police Scotland said it could not provide details of Scottish Government employees due to deficiencies in the SHOGUN database which allows some firearms owners to dodge having their ownership of weapons included in national statistics.
Police Scotland said “SHOGUN does not hold the individual employer details related to an individual certificate holder. The application form 201 requires a work address and contact but work address details are not searchable on the SHOGUN system. Searching occupations which include the word ‘government’ includes local government employees, government inspectors, government officers and investigators. The parameters of the search therefore cannot provide the details required.”
While the figures released by Police Scotland pertain only to numbers of weapons – rather than types and their potency by way of calibre - enquiries by journalists have since established Scotland’s legal elite enjoy generous permissions to hold, and purchase - significant quantities of ammunition for firearms and shotguns – with figures of thousands of rounds kept by certain members of the legal fraternity being commonplace.
Commenting on the information released by Police Scotland, a firearms specialist who did not wish to be named said that while some of the certificate holders may be members of gun clubs and ‘shoot at paper targets’ , it was his understanding most of the weapons held by persons he knew to be members of the legal fraternity - are used for hunting purposes.
There are also claims the figures of firearms and gun ownership among Scotland’s legal establishment may be much higher than stated in the Police Scotland Freedom of Information disclosure - as various weapons such as antique powder propellant type pistols, muskets and rifles are among items thought to be owned by lawyers and others in the legal fraternity – and are often not registered despite some requirements to do so.
The sometimes murky origins of the firearms & shotguns owned by the legal fraternity in Scotland are also drawing curiosity - after a legal source gave an account to journalists in relation to how two expensive shotguns including their leather cases and a set of valuable fishing rods & equipment ended up in the hands of a solicitor after he allegedly took the items from the estate of a deceased client to be valued.
The items were never handed back to the family of the deceased nor were they included in any account of assets of the deceased’s estate.
The Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates and Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) could not be reached for a statement on their members ownership and usage of firearms and shotguns.
‘KEEN SHOT’ TOP LAW OFFICER CAUGHT WITH HIS GUNS OUT:
IN March 2017, Lord Keen of Elie - the UK government's most senior adviser on Scots law - was fined £1,000 after admitting a firearms offence at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.
Advocate General for Scotland Richard Keen QC pleaded guilty – by letter - to breaching section two of the Firearms Act 1968 by ‘failing to secure a shotgun’.
Police investigating a ‘break-in’ at one of Mr Keen’s properties – a house in Edinburgh - found that the weapon had been left outside a secure cabinet.
Lord Keen, a former chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party, was made a life peer in 2015. He did not appear when the case called at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in March 2017, choosing to plead guilty by letter – thus avoiding a court appearance.
The presiding judge - Sheriff Frank Crowe said: "I do take into account Mr Keen's previous good record and the fact that he admitted his guilt at the outset.
"Nevertheless to hold a firearms certificate is a privilege and there are very strict conditions which have to be adhered to to prevent such weapons falling into the wrong hands.
"There was a potential risk with the shotgun not in the secure cabinet as laid down by the regulations."
The court heard the offence came to light when Police Officers were called to a break-in at one of Lord Keen's properties – an address on Ann Street in Edinburgh - on Hogmanay last year. The court was told Lord Keen and his wife were away on holiday.
Officers searching the property ‘found’ a 12 bore Stephen Grant shotgun in a basement out of its secure cabinet.
Solicitor advocate Simon Catto, representing Lord Keen – told Edinburgh Sheriff Court his client had been out shooting on 27 December.
Mr Catto added on returning home his client had taken the gun to the basement intending to clean it, but had then "forgotten about it through his own carelessness" before leaving on holiday the following day.
Mr Catto said Lord Keen had contacted Police himself on Hogmanay after receiving a mobile phone alert that his alarm system had been triggered.
While the upper floors of the property had been ransacked, the burglars had not entered the basement area, he said.
Mr Catto said: "He's a keen shot, he shoots approximately 10 times per year.
"He has been a shotgun enthusiast for around 25 years and has held a firearms certificate. He is therefore fully aware of what's expected and required of him in terms of the certificate.
"He accepts on this occasion he fell below that."
An investigation of gun ownership in the ranks of Police Officers can be found here: GUNS OF THE LAW: Police Scotland files release details of officers private gun ownership – shotguns, rifles & silencers, Cops also declare recovery of 30 handguns