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Plymouth shootings: Police watchdog investigating gunman’s firearm licence issues disciplinary notices

A watchdog investigating the decision to grant Plymouth gunman Jake Davison a shotgun licence has issued two disciplinary notices to Devon and Cornwall Police staff.

Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) regional director David Ford said: “Based on the evidence gathered so far, we have now served disciplinary notices on two individuals within the force to advise them their conduct is subject to investigation. The serving of such notices will be kept under review.”

In a statement, the IOPC said: “The serving of such notices advises individuals that their conduct is subject to investigation, but does not mean that disciplinary proceedings will necessarily follow.”

Jake Davison, taken from a video posted on Youtube, who has been named as the suspect in the shooting
Image: Davison first shot his mother, Maxine Davison, 51, in Keyham before going on to kill three-year-old Sophie Martyn and her father, Lee Martyn, 43.

Jake Davison, 22, killed five people with a shotgun before taking his own life, in a 12-minute attack on 12 August.

Investigators have been assessing the conduct of Devon and Cornwall Police staff who were directly involved in the processing and checking of Davison’s original application for a shotgun certificate in 2017.

They have also been looking into the handling of an assault by Davison on two youths in September last year, and the decision to return the weapon to him in July of this year.

Davison was placed on a voluntary intervention programme – an alternative to being charged or cautioned – after admitting to the assaults.

More on Jake Davison

His shotgun and licence were not seized for another three months until concerns were raised directly with the police by a member of staff working on the intervention programme.

One member of police staff has been issued with a gross misconduct notice over their handling of his application for a shotgun certificate and the later decision to return it to him weeks before the killings, the IOPC said.

A police officer, responsible for investigating the assaults in 2020, has also been issued a misconduct notice.

The IOPC said it is investigating whether the officer “shared information appropriately” with the force’s Firearms and Explosives Licensing Department about Davison’s involvement in a violent offence.

It added that it is looking into whether the officer took appropriate steps to seize the apprentice crane operator’s shotgun certificate, his shotgun and his ammunition.

Police confirmed that neither of the individuals being investigated have been suspended.

On the night of the attack, Davison first shot his mother, Maxine Davison, 51, in Keyham, before going on to kill three-year-old Sophie Martyn and her father, Lee Martyn, 43.

Davison then fatally shot Stephen Washington, 59 and Kate Shepherd, 66, before turning the weapon on himself.

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Gunman had weapon returned in weeks before attack

The inquest into the deaths of Davison’s victims opened on 19 August, with police providing evidence about the circumstances of the killings.

It heard that Davison had an argument with his mother before shooting her in the head at the start of his attack, and the other victims did not know him.

Assistant Chief Constable for Devon and Cornwall Police, Jim Nye, said the force is “fully co-operating” with the IOPC’s investigation and is “supporting” its staff through the process.

He reiterated the point made by the watchdog that the notices do not mean that disciplinary proceedings will necessarily follow.

“Our thoughts remain with all those affected by this tragic incident. Whilst the IOPC investigation continues, we have already complied fully with a national review of firearms licensing procedures, and commissioned an independent review of our own processes,” he added.

The mass shooting began on Biddick Drive in Plymouth
Image: The mass shooting began on Biddick Drive in Plymouth

IOPC regional director David Ford offered his “heartfelt sympathies to all those affected” by the traumatic events of 12 August.

“We still have significant investigative work to undertake but continue to make good progress with our enquiries,” he said.

“We are reviewing a substantial amount of information gathered from Devon & Cornwall Police and elsewhere and the force has continued to co-operate fully with our independent investigation.”

Mr Ford added that the IOPC intended to complete its investigation before the end of this year.

The government is planning new statutory guidance, including asking doctors to undertake medical checks on anyone applying for a licence and inquiries into social media usage.