WILTSHIRE coroner David Ridley renewed calls for GPs to be made to ask people being treated for anxiety or depression if they have a gun licence, and ‘red flag’ their files if they hold one, following the death of a Chippenham man.

George Humphreys’ body was found in a field at Manor Farm, Slaughterford, near Corsham, in May 2016.

The 52-year-old, who had been battling a depression and anxiety disorder, had held a firearms licence since 2012 and had seen his GP in the months before his death. Last Thursday an inquest at Salisbury Coroners’ Court recorded a verdict of suicide.

Senior coroner Mr Ridley said after the inquest opened in 2016 he sent a report to the British Medical Association and police forces calling for a compulsory gun licence monitoring scheme to be implemented.

At the inquest he said: “It’s something that I will continue to monitor and hope that it won’t be the case that I have to intervene again. But if the scheme does not roll out or is not adopted widely I will not be afraid to intervene.

“I know that GPs are busy but this does not seem to be an arduous scheme, the benefits outweigh the limited interference.”

At present, GPs do not have to ask people seeking treatment if they have a gun licence, and they do not have to mark medical notes with any information – even though the Home Office writes to every surgery in the country asking it to do so, so that when police forces send GPs details of people who have applied for gun licences or want them renewed doctors are aware which patients could be at risk.

BMA GPC executive and firearms lead Dr Mark Sanford-Wood said: “The BMA continues to work with the appropriate authorities to secure an effective, workable and safe process for licensing gun ownership.

“The question of monitoring gun owners for diagnoses such as depression is a difficult matter that does not have a simple solution, as many GPs have raised.“Mechanisms for such surveillance raise complex ethical questions. We remain concerned at the public safety implications of the current system introduced by the government and will be seeking further meetings with the Home Office to look at improving the licensing rules.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The UK has some of the toughest gun laws in the world. The authority to possess firearms is only granted in limited circumstances and is subject to stringent control.“Since April 1, 2016, police have written to GPs asking them to place a flag on patient records so that relevant medical conditions which occur following issue of a firearm certificate can be communicated to police.

“We have reviewed and further tightened the arrangements and, since August 2016, the police now write to every applicant’s GP seeking information on their medical and mental health before a certificate is granted or renewed.”