Crack shot from Chirk wins appeal over firearms revocation

Reporter:

Staff reporter (Leader Live)

Police revoked a crack shot’s firearms certificates because of inflammatory and racist Facebook postings.

But Carl Roberts, 55, who had never been in any trouble and who had held the certificates without incident for 30 years, got them back when he won his appeal at Mold Crown Court.

His barrister Nick Doherty said his client had learnt his lesson but stressed there was no connection between some of the items he had liked or shared on his Facebook page and his fitness to hold certificates allowing him to shoot.

Roberts, of Walden Crescent in Chirk, left court without making any comment.

Judge Rhys Rowlands, sitting with two magistrates, said the police could not be criticised for the stand they had taken.

He said Roberts was the secretary of a rifle club at Ruabon near Wrexham, had a great many firearms as an accomplished target shooter who over the years had done extremely well.

When he applied for further certificates as club secretary, police looked into the matter when concerns were raised about the postings on his Facebook page.

Judge Rowlands said that collectively the court found some of the postings were racist and extremely offensive.

There were also references to his use of firearms and photographs on his Facebook page.

The judge said that apart from the postings on social media, there were no other concerns about him.

He said they appeared more than two years ago, and of the 30 or so postings highlighted by the police, the court found that five or six caused concern.

Judge Rowlands said the court was firmly of the view that they were racist, inflammatory and very offensive, not just to those whose ethnicity they appeared to be directed at but to any right thinking individuals.

Roberts had told the court he did not view them as offensive and he did not know why he had put them there, but the judge said that was rejected. Plainly they were views that accorded with his own at that time, he said.

But it was not for a court to punish an individual for views they found to be offensive or inflammatory.

It had to consider whether it was satisfied that he posed a danger to public safety, or to the peace, by his continued possession of firearms. That was a different question.

The judge said some explanation had been given for the postings including that they were jokes but he said one or two of them would require a very odd sense of humour.

Roberts was married, of positive good character who had worked as a taxi driver and subjected to advanced CRB checks.

He had given evidence that he was not a racist and the judge said the court could not understand why some of the postings would have been shared unless he held views which others may find unpalatable.

The posts were a tiny fraction of the posts that had appeared on his Facebook account.

They had not created any difficulties, there had not been any breach of the peace and it was for the police to show the court on the balance of probabilities that he could not be trusted with firearms without a risk to the public peace.

The court was of the view that given his good record and looking at the matter in the round that he did not pose a danger to public safety or to the peace.

“In doing so, we are firmly of the view that the police have acted entirely properly,” he said.

Barrister Anna Price, for the police, said some of the Facebook postings were racist, offensive, and inflammatory and one post spoke about shooting immigrants.

There were also photographs of his own weaponry and ammunition including one of him pointing a weapon at the camera. She said that anyone viewing that public profile would find it intimidating.

Roberts said he did not agree. He did not condone violence in any way, he was not a racist and never had been, but he accepted he had been foolish. He denied he had displayed a complete lack of judgement.

“I think I made a naive error of judgement,” he said, but accepted that error had been repeated.

He agreed some of the postings he had shared, described by Miss Price as extreme right wing material, were not acceptable.

Mr Doherty said he himself found some of his client’s postings highly offensive but that was not the issue.

Roberts had never considered there to be any link between those postings, a tiny number compared to the hundreds of innocent postings such as family photographs and other material, and his firearms.

It was too big a step to suggest that because of a very small number of postings that he would pose a danger to public safety, given his positive record.

He was not a member of any organisation that would cause concern to anyone. Special Branch had looked into that.

Roberts, a mild mannered, quietly spoken family man, did regret that he had liked or shared any such posts and had learnt his lesson, he said.

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