Case studies

Charged with possession of a firearm

By Simon Franc


Over the past year we have noted that the number of people being wrongly charged with the possession of a dangerous air weapon under the Firearms Rules 1969 has risen sharply.


What you need to know

  1. Penalties for breaking the laws that govern air weapons can be severe and always fall within the jurisdiction of the full firearms law.
  2. The majority of air weapons in the UK are those that can be legally purchased or acquired by anyone over the age of 18. It is legal to possess an air rifle under 12ft/lbs energy and an air pistol under 6 ft/lbs energy with no firearms certification required at time of purchase/possession or crucially ever thereafter.
  3. At time of sale even a gunsmith does not under UK law have to test the new or second hand air weapon to ensure it is not over 12ft/lbs or 6 ft/lbs; meaning an individual could unknowingly legally purchase an air weapon which is in fact illegal to own.
  4. Criminal charges are applied to the possession of an air weapon where either a Force Armourer or testing laboratory have concluded that the air weapon is firing above the legal limit of 12ft/lbs or 6 ft/lbs as stated in the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969. To determine this, an examiner measures the speed of a fired pellet at recorded weight/s using a Chronograph, which then calculates the kinetic energy from the figures produced.

How can our scientists assist in your client's defence?

There are several scientific arguments to counter these charges. For example:

  1. What types and how many of each type of pellets were used? 
  2. How many sets of results were produced? 
  3. Was an average result produced from all the sets of results? 
  4. Was a scientific margin of error taken into account? 
  5. Was the Chronograph calibrated? 
  6. Were correct procedures followed? and so on.  

More information on weapons testing


Furthermore, when test results are not significantly over the legal limit, it is useful for a forensic firearms expert to state that a person firing the air weapon may not have recognised its power increase or to give another example, if an air weapon has not been used for a period of time its natural aging and the conditions of storage may have caused it to fire at above 12ft/lbs.


The argument of lethality is also crucial when defending against criminal charges related to air weapons. There is no definition of lethality within the UK Firearms Legislation. As such it is critical that a firearms expert with significant casework experience, who has examined vast numbers of weapons, provides a more realistic assessment of a weapons potential lethality.


Our firearms expert

We have provided evidence for the defence on numerous incidents where the prosecution have pursued charges for possession of an air weapon under the Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969


To ensure all aspects of air weapon cases are interpreted and reported correctly it is crucial to instruct a firearms expert with significant experience in reviewing evidence for the defence and instruct them to review the Prosecution’s case and conduct new weapons testing.


Our firearms experts have years of unrivalled practical knowledge and expertise to assist your client, should they be charged with possession of a Dangerous Air Weapon. They are also undoubtedly experienced expert witnesses who can be relied on to robustly defend your client’s case in court, if required. 


Request a free initial review of your clients case




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