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Firearm or Imitation Firearm?

September 01 2011

Forensic Science Interpreting The Evidence

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Firearms and Ballistics

Rogers-v-Regina  Court of Appeal 27th May 2011

Issues in case:

  • Item originally a blank firer revolver
  • Had undergone modification, apparently to convert to a firearm
  • BUT when does it become a firearm?

The defendant Rogers was convicted of possessing a firearm without a firearm certificate.  The prosecution case was that the modified blank firer revolver was a firearm because it comprised components of a prohibited weapon as defined by Section 5(1)(aba) of the Firearms Act 1968 as amended; i.e. a firearm which has a barrel less than 30cms in length or is less than 60cms in length overall.  Specifically, when examined, the prosecution found the barrel blockage had been drilled out to an internal diameter of 9.3mm to allow passage of a missile.  However, the cylinder, which would have contained the cartridges, was missing.  Nonetheless, the prosecution expert expressed the view that the modified revolver now constituted ‘component parts of a firearm’ and was, therefore, by definition a ‘firearm’.  At the original trial the judge stated to the jury – “As a matter of law I direct you that exhibit 6 is a firearm within that definition. You do not have to worry about that.”

We disagreed with this because, in our view, it could not be stated that the modified and incomplete revolver had ever been a ‘firearm’, and it had not been proven that a missile could be discharged down the barrel with lethal effect, as required by Section 57(1) of the Act, i.e. a ‘firearm is a lethal barrelled weapon’.

At the appeal against conviction Lord Justice Pill agreed commenting “Mr Fletcher’s evidence that, without a cylinder and without further testing, it was impossible to describe the components as components of a firearm is cogent.  The appellant was at least entitled to have the factual question determined by a jury.”

The appeal was allowed and the conviction on the possession of the incomplete revolver was quashed.

Malcolm Fletcher BSc, FFSSoc, FSSoc Dip

(The full judgement can be found here.)

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