For those that don’t already know, here in the UK, we have incredibly strict laws when it comes to anything that can be used as a weapon or in many cases, self-defense.
We aren’t allowed pepper spray as it is classed as a weapon and the only ones allowed to use it are the police.
Heck, we’re not even allowed to set booby traps around the home to stop intruders.
We also aren’t allowed stun guns for the same reason. UK law specifies that possession of a non-lethal taser is a criminal offence and, should it be disguised as another object such as a torch, the offence carries a minimum term of imprisonment of 5 years.
That’s not to say they are exactly hard to get hold of. A simple search on Wish and you can have one get through customs and delivered to your door. But should you get caught, the courts won’t mess about.
Whilst people are often unaware they are breaking the law by bringing a taser torch into the UK and claim they ‘did not know it was illegal’, this is not a valid defence. Merely possessing such an item is classified as an offence of strict liability, which means that it does not matter that you did not deliberately do anything wrong.
As the law presently stands, a person convicted of possession of a disguised firearm must plead exceptional circumstances to attempt to be punished with anything less than a five year sentence. Exceptional circumstance arguments are very difficult to win and the appeal courts have stated that only truly exceptional cases should result in anything less than a term of five years imprisonment.
The mandatory sentence was brought in to tackle ‘gun crime’. So how can it be right to impose such a long and punitive sentence for having an item that is available to purchase from Wish?
How do we get from a taser which incapacitates using an electrical charge, to having a mandatory sentence of 5 years?
Openshaw J. in Brereton explains the position; “Thus, as a matter of law, there is a specific offence for a weapon designed to discharge a noxious liquid, gas or “other thing” … this weapon was disguised as a mobile phone. Despite the fact it is not a firearm in the ordinary sense of firing a projectile, Parliament has provided that such a disguised weapon falls within the minimum sentence provisions. He went on “Parliament has passed these laws for a purpose”. Correct, but the purpose was to tackle ‘gun crime’, it was to create a deterrent to mainly young men who were using guns which caused enormous risk to innocent members of the public who could be caught in the cross fire.