Pistols & Revolvers
The illegal possession of pistols and revolvers (section 5(1)aba) Firearms Act 1968) now carries a minimum mandatory custodial sentence of five years unless there are exceptional circumstances which relate to the offence or the offender.
If the weapon were to be classed as an antique, then it is immediately removed from section 5 of the Firearms Act, and the five year prison sentence no longer applies. From a defence perspective therefore, any evidence of antiquity should be carefully considered. If the weapon cannot be considered an antique, it must still be a “lethal barrelled weapon” before it becomes a prohibited weapon. Although such considerations are often straightforward, both elements must exist – the weapon must have a barrel, and it must be capable of discharging a projectile with lethal force.
Technical offences may escape the minimum sentencing requirement, so each case must be carefully considered on the particular facts.
As with rifles, cartridge cases and bullets can often indicate the type of weapon used to fire them, and if a suspect weapon is recovered, comparisons with test fired bullets and cases can be made with those recovered from an incident scene, potentially confirming or excluding the involvement of a particular gun.
Where the distance from which a shot was fired is an issue, comparative tests can disclose short distance ranges with reasonable accuracy. This is done by identifying the patterns made on test cards by the discharge residues from the fired cartridge. At longer ranges the particles disperse so range analysis becomes progressively more difficult.