Keyham inquest: Police respond as inquest uncovers 'catastrophic failings' before mass shooting

“I am deeply sorry for the loss of those families and for the failings in my force that led to Jake Davison having a gun when he shouldn’t have."

The Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police has insisted the force has "fundamentally changed" since the Keyham tragedy in 2021.

The inquest into the Plymouth shootings found that "catastrophic failings" by the force contributed to the deaths of five innocent people, including a three-year-old child.

Chief Constable Will Kerr has today said he wants to apologise to their families and make assurances that Devon and Cornwall Police had improved and will continue to do better.

However, in a statement, the families of the victims of the Keyham tragedy accused police of closing ranks during the inquest and said it is "too late" for an apology.

"The time for that has passed," they added. "We want accountability, ownership and change."

Speaking after the inquest, Chief Constable Kerr said he hopes that he can provide some assurance to the families and the community that things have changed since the summer of 2021.

He said: “I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for those families to have to sit and listen to that evidence over the course of the last few weeks at the inquest.

“I am deeply sorry for the loss of those families and for the failings in my force that led to Jake Davison having a gun when he shouldn’t have.

“Nothing I say here is trying to lessen or excuse in any way the failings that led to the terrible events in August 2021. I’m not trying to do that at all and the families deserve better from me than trying to do that.

"The processes now around dealing with firearms licensing and renewals is fundamentally different, and has fundamentally changed and is fundamentally better as a result of measures that have been taken over the course of the past 18 months.

“The resources, the standards, the oversight, the grip are fundamentally different in 2023 than they were at the time when these awful events happened."

Devon and Cornwall Police say they have invested £4million pounds into the firearms and explosives licensing unit since August 2021.

There are now almost 100 staff handling the shotgun and firearms applications. Devon and Cornwall Police receive more applications than any other force in the country.

Chief Constable Kerr added: “I would also hope that I can give an assurance to the families as has been talked about a lot in the inquest over the past few weeks, that I and my force will support what we think is a very necessary need for a review of the legislation against which firearms decisions are actually made.

Police at the scene of the attacks in Keyham

"We think the law as it currently stands, the firearms act 1968 is outdated and it’s permissive in its attempt and we think it needs to be changed.

“The law currently says you shall be granted a firearms license unless certain requirements aren’t met but I think, and we as a force support this position as well that the presumption should be that if you want to own a gun, which is a massive responsibility on an individual with broader societal risks then you must be able to prove that 1. You have a good reason to have a gun and 2. You’re a safe person to hold a gun."

Despite Devon and Cornwall Police being in special measures, Mr Kerr defended the force saying they had taken decisive action to ensure that someone like Jake Davison could not obtain a gun again.

“The decision-makers involved in this particular case are no longer making any decisions when it comes to firearms licensing."

When challenged that these changes had only recently happened, Mr Kerr responded: “Yes, but at least it’s not happening any more. The oversight and the management of the unit as a whole is fundamentally different now than it was in the past.

“Listen, I get how difficult this would have been, not just for the families but wider communities listening to the evidence.

“It was very difficult for me to listen to as well but my job now is to make sure that the findings of the inquest and the improvements that we’ve put into place are properly and sustainably embedded within that unit so that something like this can hopefully never happen again.

“That’s my job, making sure that these improvements are sustained and that we don’t go back to the standard and inconsistencies that was heard about and was a clear part of the evidence that was heard at the inquest.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez also released a statement following the inquest.

In it, she told ITV News: “Nothing I say or do will bring back the five people who lost their lives.

“I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all those who took part in this inquest. It has provided a clear and independent understanding of missed opportunities which could have prevented one of the worst crimes to have occurred in our force area in recent years.

“Since that tragic day I have made significant funding available to improve the Devon and Cornwall Police’s firearms licensing department, recruited a new Chief Constable to transform the leadership of the force and sought reassurance that substantial improvements have been, and continue to be made.

“I am working with the Home Office and APCC (Association Of Police And Crime Commissioners) so that we learn nationally from this tragedy to ensure that nothing like it happens again. I will continue to commission support services for all those affected by these crimes in Plymouth.”