Tribunal says police were right to refuse firearms licence to man with multiple convictions

A tribunal agrees with police refusal to issue a firearms licence to a man with over a dozen convictions related to violent crime and public order offences

A man was refused a weapons licence because of his past criminal record
A man was refused a weapons licence because of his past criminal record

The Administrative Review Tribunal has justified the police’s refusal to issue a firearms licence to a Zebbug man who has over a dozen convictions relating to violent crime and public order offences.

Magistrate Gabriella Vella, presiding the tribunal, made the ruling in a case filed by 58-year-old Raymond Mifsud against the Commissioner of Police. Mifsud had applied for Target Shooter A and B licences in June 2021, but the applications had been rejected in the interests of public order.

Mifsud had argued, amongst other things, that the reasons he was given for the rejection were generic, had no basis in fact or at law and that the Police Commissioner had exceeded the scope of his powers.

The Tribunal had heard Inspector Therese Sciberras from the Weapons Office explain that the licences Mifsud had applied for would have permitted him to own “a considerable amount” of firearms and store large amounts of ammunition. As part of the vetting process, the applicant’s criminal record is checked, she said.

Mifsud was found to have been convicted of several offences, which included four separate cases of inflicting slight injury, as well as breaching the public peace, making threats and insults, and threatening public officials. He also had several past convictions for VAT-related offences, illegal employment and driving without a licence.

The inspector also testified to the fact that in 2019 he had been involved in a report about a violent incident in Sliema, but the parties had subsequently settled out of court and dropped the charges. That same year, a report of insults and threats in Qormi involving the man had also been withdrawn.

His criminal record showed that in the years between 1983 and 2005, the man evidently had issues controlling himself, said the inspector, adding that subsequent reports indicated that the problems still persisted.

Mifsud had testified, telling the court that he operated a small tourism business in Sliema, with offices situated next to those of a competing tourism operator. He blamed this rival for filing police reports against him to thin out the competition. He exhibited sworn statements by foreign nationals about the competitor’s family who had tried to entice them away from doing business with Mifsud.

Under cross-examination, however, Mifsud confirmed that not all of his convictions dealt with incidents involving the rival business.

The plaintiff had brought several character witnesses from his home town of Zebbug, including the parish priest and a former mayor, who attested to his trustworthiness. The witnesses said they had not been aware of his previous run-ins with the law.

In its decision, the Tribunal said that whilst it may well be true that Mifsud was the benevolent character described by the witnesses he had produced, a great deal of caution had to be exercised when granting firearms licences, in view of the fact that the safety of other people was at stake.

This was a consideration taken into account whenever the Commissioner of Police weighed the interests of the firearms licence applicant against the safety of the general public, said the court, ruling that it was reasonable to also take applicants’ criminal records into account.

In this case, Mifsud’s record was a legitimate factor militating against the granting of the licence, pointed out the magistrate, rejecting his appeal and declaring that the commissioner had exercised his discretion correctly in this case.