Tag Archives: weapon

Disguised weapons – new prosecution guidance

disguised weapons
Torch and stun gun

We have previously posted articles about our clients who have been unfortunate enough to be charged with allegations of possession of disguised weapons that, on conviction, will attract a minimum 5 year sentence.  This is often a surprise to the client, and we have had to work particularly hard to avoid an immediate prison sentence.

Examples involving disguised weapons can be found here and here.

New guidance has been issued by the prosecution as to when it is appropriate to charge the offence that attracts the minimum 5 year sentence.

It had been hoped that this change would have assisted those found in possession of a combination torch and stun gun.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  The charging standards have only been relaxed where, for example, as stun gun has been disguised as another weapon.

The charging guidance now contains the following:

Note on Disguised Weapons

“Firearms which are disguised as another object (such as stun guns disguised as torches or mobile phones or other innocent objects) are prohibited weapons contrary to section 5(1)(b) and 5(1A)(a).  The latter attracts a mandatory minimum sentence; the former does not.

Where a stun gun is disguised as another weapon, prosecutors should always charge section 5(1)(b) unless any significant aggravating feature, as identified by R v Avis [1988] 1 Cr App R 420 CA is present.  The factors in Avis are:

• What (if any) use has been made of the firearm?
• With what intention (if any) did the defendant possess or use the firearm?
• What is the defendant’s record?

Unless a significant aggravating feature is present, the mandatory minimum sentence may be arbitrary and disproportionate.  Where section 5(1)(b) is charged, the Court may still pass a significant sentence.  However, it can exercise its discretion at sentence where there is an absence of aggravating features which do not merit charging an offence attracting a mandatory minimum sentence.

[Additionally] Prosecutors should note that where a stun gun is disguised as another weapon, section 5(1)(b) should be charged, absent any use or intended use of the stun gun, or the commission or alleged commission at the same time or recently of other relevant offences’”.

“…The fact that the disguised stun gun in question is of limited power is not a reason for charging the lesser offence – R v McCarthy [2013] EWCA Crim. 2500.”

Note on dual purpose objects

disguised weaponsProsecutors should be alert to the defence contention that an object has a dual purpose and, therefore, is not a disguised firearm.

Where a case involves a dual purpose object (for example, a combined torch and stun gun), unless it is immediately apparent that an object contains a firearm, then it is a disguised weapon and should be charged as such, (section 5(1A) Firearms Act 1968). Failure to do so would deprive the judge of all available sentencing options, including the minimum sentence.

Prosecutors should liaise with the officer in connection with a defendant’s basis of plea in all cases involving objects described as ‘dual purpose’. 

The full CPS guidance in relation to firearms can be found here.

Instruct a criminal law specialist

disguised weaponsThe charging standards make clear that there can be flexibility in whether a charge attracting a minimum sentence is brought by the prosecution.  Experience of negotiating on offence and plea is an important skill that we are able to bring to your case.

As a result it is best to take advantage of our free and independent legal advice in police interview as it is easier for us to make a difference in your case if instructed at an early stage.

You can read more about the benefits of early legal advice here.

Even in cases where you haven’t instructed us in the police station, we will still be happy to receive your instructions after interview or if the case proceeds to court.

Again, legal aid is likely to be available for your court case and we will advise you fully about all of your funding options.

You can read more about legal aid here.

We provide nationwide legal advice and representation from our offices across the East Midlands.

disguised weapons
VHS Fletchers offices

You can find your most convenient office here.

Alternatively you can use the contact form below:


Offensive Weapons Bill published by the Government

offensive weapons billThe government has published an Offensive Weapons Bill.  The legislation is designed to signal a more stringent approach to the possession of weapons and liquids that can be used to cause harm, such as corrosive substances.

The Offensive Weapons Bill forms part of the government’s response to the recent rise in serious violence, set out in the £40m Serious Violence Strategy.  This places a new focus on early intervention alongside robust law enforcement.

What is proposed in the Offensive Weapons Bill?

The following provisions feature in the bill:

  • a new criminal offence of selling – both online and offline – a corrosive product to a person under the age of 18. The substances and concentration levels of what constitutes a corrosive product are set out in the Bill.
  • a new criminal offence of possessing a corrosive substance in a public place. There is a defence of possessing the corrosive substance for a good reason. There is a minimum custodial sentence in England and Wales where a person is convicted for a relevant offence a second time. The offence will carry a maximum sentence of 4 years imprisonment.
  • where a corrosive product or bladed product is sold online, the defence of having taken reasonable precautions can only be relied on where the seller meets certain conditions in terms of age verification and packaging and delivery of the items
  • new criminal offences prohibiting the dispatch of bladed products and corrosive products sold online to a residential address. The offence for bladed products is limited to those that can cause severe injury and includes defences for made to order items and those for sporting and re-enactment purposes. The offence will carry a maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment.
  • new criminal offences in relation to delivery companies delivering a bladed article or a corrosive product on behalf of a seller outside the United Kingdom to a person under 18
  • updating the definition of a flick knife and prohibition on the possession of flick knives and gravity knives (their sale etc. is already prohibited)
  • amending existing law to make it a criminal offence to possess certain weapons (such as knuckledusters and death stars) – the sale and importation of these is already prohibited. It provides for compensation of owners
  • extending the existing offences of possessing a bladed article or offensive weapon on school premises to cover further education premises in England and Wales and Northern Ireland
  • amending the legal test for threatening with an offensive weapon in England and Wales
  • prohibiting high energy and rapid firing rifles and a device known as a “bump stock” which increases the rate of fire of rifles. Existing owners will be compensated.

How we can help

Although the contents of the Offensive Weapons Bill are yet to be made law, in recent months the rhetoric around knife-crime has been ramped up by politicians seeking to respond to public concern about knife-crime.

Judges hear this and often react by imposing increasingly long prison sentences.  These concerns have been reflected in the new guideline relating to sentencing those convicted of possessing offensive weapons.

It is our role to ensure that firstly our clients only enter guilty pleas when such a plea is appropriate.  We will begin to prepare your defence from the very beginning of the investigation, so take advantage of our free and independent legal advice in police interview.

If you are to be sentenced for an allegation involving a weapon or a blade then we will make sure that relevant factors from the background to the offending is properly advanced in mitigation.  The lives of young people in particular may be complex and some of the factors contributing to offending may be hidden.

It is our job to ensure that the full picture is presented to the court.

We provide nationwide advice and representation in criminal cases from our offices across the East Midlands.  You can find your nearest office here.

offensive weapons bill

Alternatively you can use the contact form below: