Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 states:
“(1) A person commits an offence if, without the authority of the Defence Council he has in his possession, or purchases or acquires, or manufactures, sells or transfers-
(b) any weapon of whatever description designed or adapted for the discharge of any noxious liquid, gas or other thing…
(1A)(a) any firearm which is disguised as another object.”
Section 57(1) of the Act defines a firearm as:
“…a lethal barrelled weapon of any description from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged and includes-
(a) any prohibited weapon, whether it is such a lethal weapon as aforesaid or not.”
Over the last few years large numbers of torches incorporating stun guns have been seized by UK Border Force Officers, often from returning holiday-makers.
Stun guns conforms to the definition of a prohibited weapon given at section 5(1)(b) of the Firearms Act 1968, however torch type stun guns are often classified as a ‘firearm disguised as another object’ as described by section 5(1A)(a) of the Firearms Act 1968, possession of which attracts a minimum mandatory five year custodial sentence.
But as these items perform the function of a torch, as well as looking like a torch, they might be viewed as dual-purpose items, rather than disguised. If they are subject only to section 5(1)(b), rather than 5(1A)(a) the minimum sentencing provisions do not apply. Careful consideration therefore needs to be given to exactly which section of the Firearms Act such items fall within.