May 2021 Review
by Gun Control Network on 16-06-2021
GCN is committed to preventing gun violence and we work to pursue that objective through changes to the legal system, public services and attitudes to guns. We collect and analyse data to provide all stakeholders with the evidence needed to initiate change.
GCN collects data on gun incidents and related sentences, inquests and investigations in England, Scotland, and Wales as reported in the British media. We know our information is incomplete, though we believe nearly all the most serious crimes are included.
This Review refers to incidents that occurred during May 2021 and to earlier incidents for which further information has now been reported, often as a result of a court case or inquest. Please note that the data used for the Figures is derived solely from incidents that occurred, or first came to our attention, in May 2021.
Figure 1: May incident reports by type
We monitor FATAL GUN INCIDENTS in Great Britain and compile a list that summarises the available information. Our summaries for 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 are available at www.gun-control-network.org
We are aware of at least three reports in May 2021 concerning gun deaths:
- A man found with gunshot injuries outside a tube station in Hornsey, North London, died at the scene shortly afterwards. One eyewitness described hearing at least three shots, after which the victim staggered and collapsed. Police have opened a murder investigation, but no arrests have yet been made.
- A man has died after being shot on a street in Hackney, North East London. Found seriously injured by paramedics, the victim was proclaimed dead at the scene; a post-mortem confirmed the cause of death as gunshot injuries. A man and a teenage boy have since been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.
- Firearms officers were deployed following reports of a disturbance at a residential property In Dartford, Kent. A man, found dead at the scene, was said to have suffered injuries consistent with a gunshot wound. A male suspect, who was known to the victim, was arrested shortly afterwards and charged with murder.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of at least six reports in May 2021 which we believe to be armed domestic violence and/or victim known to perpetrator:
- See Gun Deaths above — A man known to the victim arrested following a fatal shooting in Kent.
- A 30-year-old man from Hartlepool, Co. Durham, has been jailed for two years, six months after being found guilty of controlling behaviour and coercive control, and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. While serving a suspended sentence for an attack on a previous partner, the man coerced and attacked his girlfriend between January 2019 and June last year. Following one argument, he tried to smother her and threatened to shoot her with what looked like a BB gun. On another occasion, he punched and kicked her. The judge also issued the perpetrator with a restraining order.
- A 44-year-old man has been jailed for twelve years and nine months after admitting possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life and possessing a firearm and ammunition without a certificate. Following a drinking session in October last year, the man started rowing with his partner at their home in Birmingham, West Midlands and, when the disagreement became physical, one of his partner’s friends intervened. He then shot the friend in her left shoulder before leaving the property and disposing of the gun; the weapon has not been recovered. The court heard that he had been holding the gun for someone else.
- A 73-year-old man has been handed a suspended eighteen-month prison sentence and ordered to complete 120 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to unlawful wounding. In May last year, the man’s neighbour in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire cut a boundary hedge, with some of the trimmings landing in his garden. Following a confrontation over this, he shot at neighbour with an air rifle, hitting him in the forehead. The victim, who later underwent hospital treatment to remove the pellet, restrained his attacker until police arrived. The attack was witnessed by the victim’s children, one of whom suffered nightmares afterwards. The court heard that 73-year-old, who said he kept the air rifle in his home for “recreational purposes”, claimed that drinking two cans of lager had “affected his decision-making”.
- A 27-year-old man has been jailed for five-and-a-half years after admitting possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, possessing two knives, unlawful wounding and other offences. Suspecting an old school friend of sending his partner a text message, the 27-year-old armed himself with two knives and an imitation gun and “stormed” into the man’s home in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. After his girlfriend fled “in terror”, the perpetrator bit the man’s face, tried to throttle him, hit him on the head with the gun and stabbed him in the knee. He left the property after ordering his victim to get down onto his hands and knees. In court, the judge described the assault as a “pre-planned, sustained and repeated” attack, during which the victim had a “…legitimate expectation of being shot.”
- A 43-year-old man has been handed a suspended ten-month prison sentence and made the subject of a restraining order after pleading guilty to possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. When a neighbour knocked at the door of his home in Scrooby, Nottinghamshire to discuss a dispute over parking, the man pointed a shotgun at her and threatened to shoot. He then struck her face with the firearm, causing swelling, injuries to her nose and pain to her teeth. He left the property before police arrived but was arrested on his return.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least three reports in May 2021 involving the use of police Tasers.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least eighteen reports in May 2021 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- At least six cats have been shot and injured in attacks in Buckinghamshire, Derbyshire, Suffolk, Wales and the West Midlands. A further two cats have died after being shot in Norfolk and Wales.
- A gull had to be put to sleep after being shot on the Isle of Wight and over a period of ten days a further three seagulls have died after being shot in Tyne & Wear. A falcon has been found dead in Central London, a peregrine falcon died after being found with an airgun injury in Leicestershire, and another peregrine falcon has been found seriously injured in a churchyard in North Yorkshire. A swan had to be put to sleep after being shot through the eye in Dorset. A pet dog has lost an eye after being shot with a shotgun on land behind his home in Norfolk and a pregnant Roe deer has been shot dead in West Yorkshire.
- A nesting swan has died after being shot twice in Walsall, West Midlands. Swans form “long-lasting monogamous bonds” and her partner was found waiting beside her body. The pair’s “well-established” eggs will now not hatch. A local animal rescue officer, who is investigating for the RSPCA, appealed for information.
- Photographs of a deer and its half-born fawn, both found dead in Dunvegan, Isle of Skye, have been posted on a social media site. The deer had been shot dead out of season, with NatureScot, the body that signs off deer authorisations, confirming the incident as an illegal culling. The Scottish Government is currently considering doubling the female deer culling seasons; however, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association has warned against this, with a spokesperson from the organisation saying, “The seasons were also put in place to avoid culling females when they are so heavily pregnant in April that their calves could almost stand by themselves. This is the type of management which has clearly reviled those who have seen the photographs and contacted ourselves.”
Imitation, Airsoft, airguns and BB guns do not currently require a licence in England or Wales. These guns are responsible for many gun injuries to both humans and animals.
N.B. Since January 2017, airgun owners in Scotland have been required to have a licence, and airgun crime in Scotland has decreased by one third.
Gun Control Network, The RSPCA, The Cats Protection League, other organisations and individuals are calling for similar legislation in England and Wales. MPs and families bereaved as a result of ‘child on child’ airgun fatalities are concerned about the failure to publish the outcome of a Home Office Review of air weapon regulations. In response, the Home Office has launched a further review which, at the outset, clearly rejects licensing for airgun owners in England and Wales.
Border Force and National Crime Agency
We are aware of at least one report of illegal firearms in May 2021:
- A 27-year-old man has been handed a suspended fifteen-month prison sentence and ordered to complete 80 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to being concerned in the supply of the Class A and Class B drugs, attempting to possess a blank-firing pistol as a prohibited weapon, two counts of possession of prohibited weapons and possession of MDMA, cannabis and amphetamine for personal use. In December 2017, after a Border Force officer intercepted a realistic 9mm blank-firing pistol he had ordered from the Czech Republic, police officers raided Fox’s home in Plymouth, Devon, as well as a second, linked address, and recovered drugs, air rifles and two stun guns. In court, Fox claimed that the stun guns were for disciplining pigs on his father’s farm, while the pistol was meant to scare away crows. The judge allowed a suspended sentence, partly because of the “excessive delay” in bringing the case to court.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 52 reports in May 2021 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- Four men have been jailed for their involvement in a shooting in Reading, Berkshire. After one man was involved in a car collision in October 2019, witnesses reported seeing him transfer a handgun from his damaged vehicle into a car driven by another man. Some hours later, a third man, and two accomplices, fired the same gun seven times at a man sitting in a car, wounding his shoulder. Two perpetrators fled the scene in a hired car while the other left in another vehicle. Following the attack, police officers discovered “a significant quantity of controlled drugs” in a vehicle linked to one of the men. After a complex investigation, detectives were able to show that one of the accused “intended to kill” the victim, who has since made a full recovery. A 25-year-old man was jailed for 24 years after being convicted of attempted murder, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, and two counts of possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply; a 31-year-old man received a sentence of five years having been convicted of possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence; a 37-year-old man was jailed for fourteen years after he pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, and a 36-year-old man is yet to be sentenced for the same offence.
- A 56-year-old man has been jailed for three years and five months after admitting illegally possessing an antique pistol, driving dangerously and possessing amphetamines. In May last year, the man, a learner driver, was stopped by police officers in Faversham, Kent after driving at twice the 30mph speed limit. The officers agreed to follow him home after he told them he was taking medication to someone suffering an epileptic seizure; however, he evaded them by driving at speeds of 70mph, endangering pedestrians as he mounted the pavement. He was found soon afterwards hiding at an industrial estate and an antique pistol was discovered in the wheel arch of a nearby parked car. The man claimed that the pistol had belonged to his son, who died in April last year. A friend of his son’s also died after being struck by a motorbike at a gathering on the day of the funeral. The man, grieving after the double tragedy, “confessed” to a psychiatrist that he had planned to drive to a secluded spot to kill himself using exhaust fumes. Accepting there were reasons not to impose the minimum mandatory sentence of five years, the judge reduced the prison term.
- After stealing cash and threatening staff with a replica gun at two banks and a post office in Gants Hill and Wanstead, East London, a 52-year-old man has been jailed for sixteen years, having been found guilty of attempted robbery, two counts of robbery and three counts of possession of an imitation firearm.
- Following the fatal shooting of a man in Sefton, Merseyside in June 2018, a 22-year-old man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison after being found guilty of murder. An accomplice, aged 21, was jailed for 21 years for manslaughter. By promising the victim that he could buy a stolen car for £2,000, the accomplice helped lure the victim to a meeting place where he was surrounded by a gang of men. When the 22-year-old man threatened the victim with a handgun, he handed over the cash he had brought with him; however, as the gang ran away, the victim gave chase. The 22-year-old turned and shot his pursuer in the neck and the man died later in hospital. The two perpetrators were also found guilty of conspiracy to rob, conspiracy to possess a prohibited firearm and conspiracy to possess ammunition, as were two other gang members, who were jailed for ten years and eleven-and-a-half years, respectively. Another person received a suspended sentence of to 20 months for assisting an offender.
- A man and woman have been jailed for their involvement in the manufacture of homemade “slam guns” and a revenge shooting. The 31-year-old man received twenty-one years and eight months, with an extended licence period of five years, for offences including the manufacture of weapons and possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. His ex-girlfriend, aged 26, received six years and nine months for possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and her role in the manufacture of the guns. In March 2019, targeting a man whom he believed had been involved in a robbery, the 31-year-old discharged one of his homemade firearms through the window of a house in Bradford, West Yorkshire, narrowly missing his intended victim and the man’s mother. During the subsequent investigation, police discovered that the duo had been manufacturing slam guns. The court heard that a number of these weapons had been sold and that the man had been “looking to expand his business by converting blank-firing guns into working weaponry”.
- After “strolling” through Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire carrying an airgun in April this year, a 29-year-old has been handed a £187 court bill, having pleaded guilty to possessing an unloaded air weapon in a public place. The court heard that the man was spotted on council CCTV leaving his home with an air rifle under his clothing, subsequently pulling it out and running off. When he returned home, police officers were waiting for him. He told the officers that the air weapon was unloaded and that he had taken it to a friend’s house. He said that it was “usually stored in a gun cabinet” and used to shoot rats. Magistrates ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the air rifle.
- A 30-year-old man has been jailed for life, with a minimum term of 28 years, after being found guilty of murder, with an additional ten-year sentence for the earlier attempted murder of another man. In April 2019, the man used an antique shotgun to fatally shoot a man in the head at close range in Edinburgh, Scotland. The month before, he attacked a man with a machete. The court heard that he had been paid by an organised crime group to carry out the attacks, the first of which was described by the judge as a “premeditated and meticulously planned assassination”.
- A 25-year-old man has been jailed for sixteen years, three months after admitting two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, as well as drug and weapons offences. In April last year, specialist officers detained him after observing him handing what they believed to be a bag of cash to a man under their surveillance. After recovering an encrypted EncroChat mobile phone from him and a large quantity of cocaine from his rucksack, officers searched his home in Edgeware, North London. Behind a false wall panel, officers discovered a holdall containing an Uzi sub machine gun and a Skorpion sub-machine gun, as well as hundreds of compatible bullets. Officers also seized £143,080 in cash and around 1kg of cocaine, valued at between £32,000 to £36,000. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said that the man “was involved in large scale drug trafficking and was also instrumental in the laundering of the proceeds of this crime. He had possession of dangerous automatic weapons, ammunition and a silencer, which would have been capable of causing death and serious injury on the streets of London”.
- After being caught with a loaded air weapon on farmland in Corhampton, Hampshire in November last year, a 24-year-old man was fined £440, with a £44 victim surcharge and £85 costs.
- A 21-year-old man and a 19-year-old man have been jailed for their involvement in the shooting of a man in May 2019. The 21-year-old received a sentence of 25-and-a-half years for attempted murder, while the 19-year-old was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years for possessing a firearm with intent. In a row over damage to a car, the duo confronted their victim in a barber shop in in Walsall, West Midlands and punched him in the face. The older man then fired a sawn-off shotgun through the glass door of the premises, causing the victim life-changing injuries to the stomach. Because he was wearing an electronic monitoring tag, police were able to prove that the older man had been in the area at the time of the attack.
- A 33-year-old man, of no fixed address, has been sentenced to 22-and-a-half years in prison after admitting conspiracy to supply firearms, conspiracy to possess ammunition and conspiracy to supply cocaine. The man was the leader of an organised crime group in Warrington, Cheshire that laundered money and supplied guns and cocaine to other gangs, using “violence to intimidate and control those they believed had crossed them”. When detectives arrested associates of the gang in 2018 and recovered weapons including an AK-47 assault rifle, revolvers, silencers and more than 100 rounds of ammunition, the man fled to the United Arab Emirates. He was detained on an international arrest warrant and extradited in February this year. Following sentencing, a police spokesperson said: “…we know there are still people in the community who are close to him and are continuing his criminality. My message to those people is we will come for you.”
- A 43-year-old man has been handed a custodial sentence of four years and four months, with an extended licence period of two years, after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, harassment, criminal damage and public disorder. In February this year, he racially abused a shopkeeper in Abertillery, Monmouthshire after walking into the store with an air rifle. The following day, police were alerted after he shot the firearm into the air and threatened to kill his neighbours. When he opened his front door to the responding officer, he was carrying the air rifle. Armed officers were called in and the man surrendered following a 90-minute stand-off. The court heard that he had caused “pain and suffering” to his neighbours and will not be going back to his address.
- Three men have been sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of murder. In August last year, two of the men were in a BMW that pursued a Ford Mondeo in Bury, Greater Manchester, with two shots being fired from the BMW during the chase. When the Mondeo stopped and its occupants attempted to flee, a third shot was fired, hitting one man in the chest. The victim died in hospital a few hours later. The court heard that one of the perpetrators had been involved in a dispute with a friend of the deceased and that the victim had been wrongly targeted. Following an intense investigation, one man was arrested two weeks after the shooting; another handed himself in shortly afterwards; and the third man was arrested in the Netherlands after fleeing the UK. Two of the men were jailed for 27 years, while the third received a 24-year sentence.
- Three men have been jailed for their part in a conspiracy involving homemade guns. In April last year, following a disagreement his ex-girlfriend’s new partner, one of the men asked two others whether they would make him a gun. On having second thoughts about the plan, he called police and falsely claimed to have heard gunfire on the street where the other two lived in South Shields, Tyne & Wear. Officers responded and discovered two homemade slam guns and “items which had the capability of being used as working, homemade ammunition” at an address, with evidence being found subsequently that linked the men to the weapons. Armed police officers and bomb disposal personnel were called in to ensure the safe removal of guns and ammunition. The first man, of no fixed abode, was jailed for three years and four months after admitting conspiracy to transfer a prohibited firearm; the second man pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited firearm and ammunition without a firearms certificate and was sentenced to five years and seven months in prison; and the third man was jailed for ten years and two months, having pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited firearm and terror-related offences.
- A 45-year-old man has been jailed for fifteen months for possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and criminal damage. Following the breakdown of his marriage, the man “trashed” the home where he and his wife still lived together and posted a message on Facebook, threatening to stab her. When police officers went to his address in Kilham, East Yorkshire, they found him lying on a bed with a long, black firearm pointing at his head. The officers withdrew after he pointed the weapon at them and trained negotiators were called in. The court heard that the man suffers mental health problems and had threatened to take his own life with a firearm before.
- A 40-year-old man has been jailed for three years after admitting attempted robbery and possessing an imitation firearm. In April this year, the man threatened a staff member at a shop in Horden, Co. Durham with an imitation gun and demanded money from the till. The assistant grabbed the gun and shouted for help, but his assailant managed to retrieve the firearm and leave the shop. The assistant’s teenage brother then chased the man and, with a member of the public helping, managed to “pin him to the ground” until police arrived. During interview, the man said that he had needed the money for drugs and rent, having fallen on hard times after breaking his ankles and being unable to work.
Incidents by Weapon Type
Many incidents involve the use of airguns*, Airsoft, imitation and BB guns, which do not require a licence and may not contain ammunition but are used by perpetrators to capitalise on the fear of victims who believe they are about to be shot. Traumatised victims are often unable to identify the weapons used. It is extremely difficult to distinguish between imitation and live-firing guns unless the weapons are fired and/or recovered, and, for this reason, guns involved in incidents frequently remain unidentified.
Shotguns and rifles can be legally held by those granted a licence. Ultimately, legally-obtained guns in every country tend to find their way into the wrong hands, whether through theft, corrupt gun dealers, and/or the failure of the licensing procedure to identify legal gun owners who pose a risk to themselves and/or others.
Please see the endnote for further explanation of gun types and current legal status.
Figure 2: May 2021 reports by weapon type
See Gun incidents in the UK page for details of incidents involving these gun types.
Guns that do not require a licence: Airguns* (so-called ‘low-powered’); Airsoft; ball-bearing; imitation; paintball; antique; deactivated; bolt guns** and starting pistols/blank firers. These guns are cheap, accessible and available to buy on impulse. Moreover, lack of secure storage requirements enables theft. Many are capable of being converted into more powerful weapons. Guns deactivated to early specifications are capable of reactivation and recent, more rigorous specifications are not retrospective.
There is no legal definition of ‘antique’ and, although possession of antique guns is prohibited to those having served or received a criminal sentence, it is unclear how this is administered during sales and transfers.
Airsoft guns are exempt from the terms of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 and are ‘self-regulated’ by the Airsoft industry. The Home Office fails to collect data on the proliferation of Airsoft skirmishing sites.
- *From January 2017 airgun owners in Scotland have required a licence.
- ** A ‘slaughter licence’ is required for a bolt gun.
Guns that require a licence: Airguns in Scotland; shotguns; rifles; police firearms/ Tasers.
The inadequate licensing procedure is subsidised by taxpayers to the tune of £20 million a year. Any number of shotguns can be held on one certificate, which lasts for five years. The licensing procedure consistently fails to protect the public from licensed gun-owning perpetrators and women are particularly at risk of domestic violence involving licensed gun owners. However, the Home Office fails to publish data regarding the number of Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition involved in crime, and the status of guns used in suicides is not recorded at inquests.
Guns that are prohibited: Handguns (revolvers, pistols etc.); Olympic starting pistols; Tasers; submachine guns; and ‘other’ weapons (pepper spray/CS Gas; home-made guns and explosive devices). Certain handguns are exempt from prohibition. Handgun, Taser and pepper spray use is authorised for police, but there are concerns regarding fatalities and Taser training.
Imitation/Airsoft guns are available without background checks. Crimes reported in the media as involving handguns are likely to involve imitations, airsoft, air pistols or other guns that look like handguns, resulting in misleadingly-inflated reports of handgun crime.
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