August 2023 Review
by Gun Control Network on 15-09-2023
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 August 2023 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 August 2023.
Figure 1: August 2023 incident reports by type
We monitor FATAL GUN INCIDENTS in Great Britain and compile lists that summarise the available information. Our summaries for 2017/18 to 2022/23 are available at www.gun-control-network.org
We are aware of one report in August 2023 concerning a gun death:
- A man died in hospital after being shot on a street in Leamington, Warwickshire. Four people have since been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.
We are not aware of any reports of inquests in August 2023 relating to gun deaths.
Armed Domestic Violence and/or Victim Known to Perpetrator
We are aware of eight reports in August 2023 that we believe to relate to the above:
- A 37-year-old man has been jailed for 22 months after pleading guilty to possession of a Taser, assaulting and injuring his partner, and possession of a knife. In February 2023, the man Tasered his partner on her thigh because he thought she was staying in bed too late. The court was shown a video clip of the incident, recorded by a child present at the address, which showed him laughing as he clicked the Taser. When police searched the man’s home and car in Stirling, Scotland, they recovered a Taser, a pack of Taser cartridges, a Taser charging plug and a knife.
- A 30-year-old man has been jailed for 20 months after admitting threatening behaviour while in possession of a BB gun and a knife. In May 2023, the man threatened his former partner and two others with a knife and an imitation gun at a house in Galashiels, Scottish Borders. The sheriff also imposed a three-year non-harassment order, preventing the man from contacting his ex-partner.
- A 20-year-old man from Zelah, Cornwall has been sent to youth custody for four years after pleading guilty to three charges of possessing an imitation firearm in a public place and one of possessing a prohibited weapon in a private place. He was further convicted of stalking, possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and two charges each of possessing a blade and perverting the course of justice. In May last year, after stalking a teenage girl for two months when she tried to end their friendship, the man showed her an imitation gun and threatened to harm her parents. Armed police responded and found him with three replica firearms and two blades. The judge also imposed an indefinite restraining order, banning the man from all contact with the complainant.
- A 55-year-old man from Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire has been jailed for eighteen months after being convicted of breaching a restraining order and two assaults. In March 2023, the man attacked his ex-partner and kicked a young girl before forcing the woman and her three children into his car. While drifting in and out of consciousness, the woman saw a plastic bottle containing liquid and a Taser in the vehicle. The man eventually dropped his victims off at a hospital. The judge issued a three-year restraining order banning him from contacting his ex-partner.
- A man, now aged 19, has been handed a community order, with 40 days of an accredited programme, 30 days of rehabilitation and 100 hours of unpaid work, after admitting possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In April 2021, the man threatened his ex-partner with an imitation gun when she came to his home in Rochford, Essex to return a ring. The man closed security gates at the property, trapping the woman inside, before running at her with the weapon. The victim managed to escape by climbing the gates. In an impact statement, the woman said she was now anxious about going out and struggles with sleep. The judge also granted a three-year restraining order, preventing the man from contacting his victim.
- A 50-year-old man has been handed a suspended one-year prison term, with a requirement to attend a mental health programme, after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In June this year, at their home in Mawnan Smith, Cornwall, the man pointed an air rifle at his wife when she became angry about a telephone call to her doctor’s surgery. After his wife alerted police, the man told the responding officers that he had felt “worn down” by his wife’s behaviour and had pointed the weapon at her “as a distraction to make her snap out of her emotional state”. On sentencing, the judge described the event as “a completely isolated one-off incident”. He added that, although guidelines stated such an offence required a custody sentence, there was “very strong mitigation” for this to be suspended.
- A 23-year-old man from Bournemouth, Dorset, has been sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison for engaging in controlling and coercive behaviour, administering a poison or noxious substance, criminal damage and two offences of occasioning actual bodily harm. During a nine-month relationship in 2020, the man “emotionally and physically” abused a woman, including repeatedly shooting at her with a BB gun. He also slashed her face with broken glass, flushed her rabbit down the toilet and forced pills down her throat after goading her into taking an overdose. The man fled the country for Thailand before his trial.
- A 20-year-old man from Wrexham, North Wales, has been jailed for eighteen months for controlling behaviour and causing fear of violence. During a relationship that began in January 2021, the man became abusive towards his partner and made threats against her family members. He also recorded a video of himself with a gun, threatening to shoot her. After being arrested, the man continued to contact her via phone and social media, mentioning guns and bullets. The judge issued a restraining order, preventing the man from contacting his former partner or her family.
Licensed/Former Licensed Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, and Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least six reports in August 2023 that we believe to relate to the above:
- Police officers seized three shotguns and ammunition from an address in Kendal, Cumbria after their owner failed a drug wipe test, while a firearm and shotguns were removed from a property in Cartmel after the certificate holder was found to be in breach of the terms of his firearms certificate on multiple counts, including storing firearms insecurely. The seizures were made as a result of intelligence received.
- A 39-year-old man has been handed a suspended six-month prison term and ordered to complete a twelve-month alcohol treatment programme and fifteen days working with probation, after pleading guilty to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In April 2023, the man called the police and told the operator that he had a gun and was going to shoot himself. He went on to say that he would aim the weapon at officers if they came to his home in Normanton, East Midlands so that they would shoot him. Armed police officers responded and fired a baton round at the man after he held a pistol to his head and knelt in an open doorway with the gun in his hand. The firearm was subsequently identified as an air gun. The court heard that the man, who was out of work and depressed, had been drunk at the time of the incident and has since received psychiatric treatment.
- Armed police officers responding to reports of a man brandishing a firearm in a memorial garden in Horwich, Greater Manchester fired a baton round at the suspect before arresting him on suspicion of firearms offences. The man had reportedly pointed the gun at another man and pulled the trigger twice, making a clicking sound. Described as “vulnerable”, the suspect had also allegedly verbally abused the victim and thrown wreaths from a memorial around the garden. Experts will assess the firearm recovered at the scene to assess its viability.
- Following reports that a group of young people had stolen guns from a shipping container in Holbury, Hampshire, police officers searched several addresses and arrested thirteen people including one man on suspicion of possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, two men, two women and six teenagers on suspicion of possessing a firearm without a certificate, and one teenager on suspicion of conspiring to possess a firearm without a certificate. No information has been released about the type of guns stolen.
- The Royal Military Police are investigating the theft of a deactivated WWI Lewis Machine Gun from outside the Regimental Headquarters of the Queen’s Royal Hussars in Tidworth, Wiltshire. The weapon was being featured as a memorial at the entrance gates.
- A 31-year-old man has been jailed for ten months after admitting burglary. In June 2023, the man disconnected the security camera at a former employer’s home in Eye, Cambridgeshire before breaking into the property and stealing an air rifle and other high value items. The householder and a friend gave chase after seeing the man flee with his “arms filled with possessions” and managed to recover the air rifle.
We are aware of at least seven reports in August 2023 involving the use of police Tasers, including:
- After two police officers stopped to help a distressed man in Pontypridd, South Wales, he allegedly doused them in petrol and threatened to set them alight. The man was Tasered and arrested. The suspect has since been charged with two counts each of threats to kill and administering a noxious substance with intent to injure.
- Following a fight at a property in Yeovil, Somerset, police officers incapacitated two men with pepper spray. A third man, believed to be armed with a bladed article, was Tasered after he made threats to the officers.
- A 24-year-old man has been jailed for six years after pleading guilty to assaulting an emergency worker, having a dog dangerously out of control causing injury, two counts of possession of a shortened shotgun, possession with intent to supply Class A drugs and possession with intent to supply Class B drugs. In May 2022, one of the man’s dogs bit a police officer on the leg after he another officer responded to reports of a disturbance in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. When the second officer deployed his Taser to try and stop the attack, the man began throwing bricks at them. Two months later, police recovered two shotguns from a parked car in the city. The weapons had been reported stolen and the man’s DNA was found on one of them. Some weeks later, the man was arrested again after he was found carrying drugs.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least ten reports in August 2023 of animal cruelty and/or death involving a gun, including:
- A red deer hind was put to sleep after being shot in a suspected poaching incident in Lochaber, Scottish Highlands. Police have appealed for information.
- A cat was treated by a vet after being shot in the spine with an air gun in New Milton, Hampshire. A spokesperson from the RSPCA said, “Since the beginning of 2020, the RSPCA has received 808 reports relating to animals being intentionally harmed with a weapon. Airguns and rifles were responsible for the bulk of the incidents, with 658 reports made.” The charity has been campaigning to remove a loophole from firearm legislation that allows minors unsupervised possession of air weapons on private land and, in July last year, the Government undertook to amend the Firearms Rules 1998 to strengthen controls on access to airguns by those under 18. As of yet, this undertaking has not been actioned.
- A cat was put to sleep after being shot in the jaw and head with an air rifle in Benfleet, Essex. The pet’s owners had a cat that survived a similar attack ten years ago. An RSPCA officer appealed for information, describing the shooting as “callous and cruel”.
- A dog was treated for gunshot wounds after being shot on a road in Chedglow, Wiltshire. Police issued a description of a suspect seen in the area at the time and appealed for information.
- A dog had to be put down in South Yorkshire after being found with gunshot injuries during a police operation involving five men who were arrested and later sentenced to a total of over 25 years in prison. Two men were jailed for a total of fourteen years after a second dog was shot dead in a street in Lanarkshire in an incident that also caused injury to its owner.
- Two pigeons, believed to have been shot dead, have been found close to a canal in Neath Port Talbot, South Wales. Similar incidents involving airguns have been reported in the area in recent months. Police have appealed for information.
- A protected sparrow hawk and some pigeons have been found shot dead in woods in Darlington, Co. Durham. Appealing for information, a police spokesperson said that as well as there being legislation protecting some wild species, it was unlawful to shoot in the wood.
- Two dead ducks, found by a dog walker in Pontypool, Monmouthshire, are believed to have been shot with an air rifle. Click on media link to read full report.
- Two Swans are being treated by a wildlife charity after being shot with an air rifle in Newbury, Berkshire. One of the birds suffered an injured beak while the other was hit just below the eye. Police are investigating the incident.
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, Cats Protection, other organisations and individuals are calling for similar legislation in England and Wales after 300,000+ members of the public petitioned in favour of airgun licensing. The government launched a consultation followed by a further consultation but as a result of responses, the overwhelming majority of which came from members of the shooting community, they concluded not to license airguns in England and Wales.
Border Force and National Crime Agency
We are not aware of any reports in August 2023 relating to the above.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 51 reports in August 2023 of sentences and convictions for gun crime, including:
- A 49-year-old man has been jailed for 20 months after pleading guilty to three counts of making indecent images of children, six counts of possessing a weapon in a private place and two counts of possessing a weapon for the discharge of a noxious liquid/gas/electrical incapacitation. Police officers arrested the man at his home in Littleport, Cambridgeshire after he admitted downloading indecent images of children onto a USB stick. While he was on bail, police seized 74 items, including rifles, pistols and crossbows, from a shed at the man’s former address. A total of 25 firearms were recovered.
- A 33-year-old man has been jailed for 21 years after being found guilty of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, conspiracy to transfer criminal property, conspiracy to possess prohibited weapons, conspiracy to possess ammunition, possessing a controlled drug of Class A with intent and possessing criminal property. In February 2021, police officers seized cocaine, £36,325 in cash, a knife and watches from the man’s home in Isleworth, West London. Messages on his phone revealed that he had used the criminal messaging network, Encrochat, to source drugs and discuss the procurement of firearms and ammunition.
- A 55-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman have been jailed for life after being found guilty of murder. The man will spend a minimum of 33 years in prison, while the woman was given a minimum of 30 years after also being convicted of perverting the course of justice. After the woman told her 55-year-old then partner that she had been raped by a man on a Tinder date in 2019, the pair tracked the man down and plotted to attack him. In November 2022, the 55-year-old shot the man in the face outside his home in Wigan, Greater Manchester before pouring acid and soda crystals onto his face and body. The next day the pair flew to Jamaica on holiday but they were arrested two weeks later, upon their return. On sentencing, the judge said that it had been a “brutal and cold-blooded murder”, adding, “The two of you decided to act as judge, jury and executioner.”
- Four men have been sentenced to a total of more than 35 years for kidnap, robbery, possessing an offensive weapon and having a firearm with intent. In September 2022, the four men forced a teenage boy into a car in Birmingham, West Midlands before attacking him and threatening him with a sawn-off shotgun and a Samurai sword. The assailants sent messages demanding cash to contacts on his phone and stole money, a phone and trainers from him before dumping him at a railway station. Detectives linked one of the assailants to the account the victim's money was transferred to, while all the men's phones placed them at the same locations ANPR mapped the car as being on the day of the attack.
- A 59-year-old man has been handed a suspended two-year prison term and ordered to pay £25,000 compensation, complete fifteen days of rehabilitation activities and receive a year of mental health treatment, after being found guilty of possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. In November 2021, the man pointed a shotgun at an enforcement officer who called at his home near Penzance, Cornwall to serve papers on him. The victim, who did not know the gun could not fire, has been unable to work since the incident. The judge accepted the 59-year-old’s claim that he had been in fear of his life after getting involved with a drug smuggling ring and had believed the victim to be a hitman.
- Five men and two women have been jailed for their involvement in an armed robbery at a rival’s home in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. The men, dressed as police officers, armed themselves with guns, hammers and crowbars before forcing their way into the property and stealing what is believed to be a large amount of cash and Class A drugs. Police officers subsequently found the thieves’ getaway van and recovered some of the fake police uniform, zip ties, a remote CCTV camera, an imitation firearm and a loaded handgun from the vehicle. Detectives discovered that the group had installed a covert camera on a property neighbouring the targeted address to carry out surveillance and that the two women had helped manage the raid. One woman was arrested alongside her partner, who had organised the robbery and co-ordinated the surveillance. After being found guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary and two counts of possession of a firearm with intent to threaten, the men were jailed for terms of between nine years and eleven-and-a-half years, while one woman received two years and the other was handed a suspended 20-month prison term.
- Two brothers, aged 40 and 38, have been jailed for eight years, one month and five years, three months, respectively, after pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy to manufacture, sell and transfer prohibited weapons and ammunition, while the 40-year-old also admitted two counts of possessing a firearm when prohibited. Following an investigation that linked the duo to the conversion and sale of guns, police searched the younger man’s home in Birmingham, West Midlands in June 2021 and recovered several types of ammunition and manufacturing tools. The older man’s laptop revealed significant searches and more than 1,800 images of firearms and obsolete cartridges. Following sentencing, a Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson said the brothers, “… made a business out of supplying criminals with guns and bullets regardless of the consequences to society…” Two of the brothers’ customers will be sentenced at a later date.
- It has emerged that a 75-year-old Mexican national was sentenced to 26 months in prison in June 2023 after pleading guilty to possessing a prohibited firearm and possessing ammunition without a firearm certificate. Earlier the same month, a working automatic pistol, a loaded magazine and loose cartridges were found in his suitcase at Heathrow Airport, West London. The man claimed to have believed he had left the items at his country house in Mexico and, during an appeal hearing two months later, his sentence was reduced to a two-year suspended prison term. The appeal heard that “there was no suggestion the prohibited items were possessed in a criminal context and that he was ignorant of them being in the luggage”.
- A 28-year-old man has been jailed for eight years after admitting conspiracy to possess prohibited weapons for sale, conspiracy to convert imitation firearms into firearms and possession of a prohibited firearm and ammunition. In January 2022, police officers raided the man’s home in Huyton, Merseyside and recovered a converted blank-firing handgun and ammunition from the loft. His phone revealed discussions with another man regarding the production of ammunition by placing steel ball bearings into blank-firing rounds, as well as the conversion of blank-firing handguns into live firearms. In May the same year, police officers retrieved three blank-firing handguns, six empty blank-firing cases and equipment that could be used to convert imitation firearms from the other man’s home. It is believed that the duo sold at least seven converted firearms. The other man was jailed for nine years in March 2023.
- A 31-year-old man has been jailed for fifteen years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and diamorphine, possession of a firearm, possessing criminal property and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. In September 2021, police officers recovered £14,000 worth of crack cocaine and heroin from the man’s car after it had been impounded due to an unpaid DVLA fine. In December of the same year, a loaded firearm and around £10,000 worth of Class A drugs were discovered in the tailpipe of a vehicle at his home in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, while more cash, high-value items and mobile phones containing messages about drug dealing were recovered from a bedroom. In a prepared statement for police, the man claimed to have been set up. He admitted the charges, however, after phone data and evidence of his lavish lifestyle, despite being unemployed, proved otherwise.
- Three men have each been jailed for eighteen months for their involvement in a violent disorder in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. In June this year, the three men confronted another group while armed with an imitation gun and machete. As they chased the group away, the opposing gang fired an air pistol. Police officers later recovered a ball-bearing gun and machete from the defendants’ car. All three men pleaded guilty to affray, while one admitted possessing an imitation firearm and another admitted possessing a bladed article.
- A 30-year-old man has been jailed for fifteen years after pleading guilty to six armed robberies and asking for twelve other robbery offences to be taken into consideration. Between February and October 2022, the man carried out seventeen shop robberies at knifepoint and one bank robbery in Birmingham, West Midlands, while armed with a BB gun. He was arrested at his home, where police officers found BB gun packaging and a stolen money bag.
- A 26-year-old man has been jailed for a minimum of 34 years after being convicted of murder. In March 2019, police responding to a report of a gunshot at a block of flats in West Norwood, South London found a seriously injured man on a balcony walkway. The victim, who had been shot from behind with a Glock pistol, died a short time later. The assailant was arrested following analysis of mobile phone data and other intelligence.
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: August 2023 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. The Home Office fails to publish data regarding the number of Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition involved in non-fatal crime. 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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