Man from Essex loses battle to retain guns

A court decision to allow a gun owner from Essex to keep his firearms after he was involved in a violent row with his wife has been over-ruled.

High Court judges overturned a Chelmsford Crown Court decision to allow Donald Campbell, 63, of Croft House, near Braintree, Essex, to retain his firearms certificate.

The High Court heard the row led to armed police being called.

The court ruled the original decision was "not rationally based".

It over-ruled the recorder's decision, made when sitting with lay justices at Chelmsford Crown Court, to go against the chief constable of Essex who had revoked the firearms certificate.

Pushed against fridge

It ordered that in future such cases must go before more experienced judges.

The crown court held the domestic dispute did not affect Mr Campbell's right to possess guns, including a rifle.

But Sir John Thomas, President of the Queen's Bench Division, said: "It is overwhelmingly in the public interest that the tightest control is exercised over those who possess firearms."

Decisions of chief constables to revoke firearms certificates "must be heard by full-time circuit judges - it is simply not fair to ask a part-time judge without the experience of a full-time judge to decide such issues," said Sir John.

Sir John, sitting with Mr Justice Kenneth Parker at London's High Court, allowed the chief constable's appeal against the crown court's decision, made in July last year. Both judges agreed revocation was "not only justifiable but inevitable" under the 1968 Firearms Act.

Crown court Recorder John Caudle and two lay justices said the domestic row at Croft House in 2010 was "not sufficiently untoward and serious enough" to justify being taken into account when evaluating whether to revoke.

Disagreeing, Mr Justice Parker described how, on 23 November 2010, the police received an emergency call from Mr Campbell's partner, Michelle Bartlett, 38.

She complained of being seriously assaulted by Mr Campbell, including being hit in the stomach and punched in the head after being pushed against the fridge.

Ms Bartlett told the police Mr Campbell had left the house with one firearm and returned later to retrieve another, breaking down a door to gain entry, before leaving again.

An armed response unit had to be called into action, said the judge.

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