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UK watchdog probing why Plymouth shooter got back his gun

August 20, 2021 GMT
Floral tributes left near a home following a shooting incident in Plymouth, England, Monday Aug. 16, 2021. Police in southwest England say six people were killed, including the suspected shooter, in the city of Plymouth Thursday in a “serious firearms incident” that wasn’t terror-related. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)
Floral tributes left near a home following a shooting incident in Plymouth, England, Monday Aug. 16, 2021. Police in southwest England say six people were killed, including the suspected shooter, in the city of Plymouth Thursday in a “serious firearms incident” that wasn’t terror-related. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)
Floral tributes left near a home following a shooting incident in Plymouth, England, Monday Aug. 16, 2021. Police in southwest England say six people were killed, including the suspected shooter, in the city of Plymouth Thursday in a “serious firearms incident” that wasn’t terror-related. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — A 22-year-old man who fatally shot five people in southwestern England earlier this month had his confiscated shotgun and gun license returned to him after he completed a program that aims to keep offenders out of the British criminal justice system, a police watchdog said Friday.

Police have said that Jake Davison killed his mother and four other people, including a 3-year-old girl, before taking his own life in the port city of Plymouth on Aug. 12. It was Britain’s first mass shooting in over a decade.

He started participating in the voluntary Pathfinder program, an alternative to being charged or given an official caution, after admitting assaulting two youths in a Plymouth park in September 2020.

His shotgun and license to own it were confiscated in December while he was taking part in the program and given back to him July 9 following a review by firearms licensers, a police investigation found.

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Britain’s police watchdog is investigating what information was shared and decisions made in connection with Davison’s possession of the gun. Firearm crimes are rare in Britain, which has strict gun control laws and regulations.

“Our thoughts remain with all those severely affected by the horrific events in Plymouth,” David Ford, the regional director of the Independent Office for Police Conduct, said. “We appreciate the significant public concern that has arisen and the need for answers to a range of questions for the safety of the public, and to understand what happened leading up to the tragedy.”

The IOPC said Davison first applied for a shotgun certificate in July 2017 and received one valid for five years in January 2018. It is believed he then legally purchased a shotgun in March 2018.

Police have said that Davison appeared to have shown interest in “incel” — shorthand for “involuntarily celibate” — forums on social media. The “incel” movement justifies violence against women as revenge for men who are rejected as sexual partners. The online subculture has been linked to deadly attacks in California, Toronto and Florida.

Davison posted online that while he wouldn’t describe himself as an “incel,” they are “people similar to me, they’ve had nothing but themselves, and then they’ve socially had it tough.”