Theresa May promises crackdown on gun middle men


Theresa May said 'middle men supplying firearms' are as guilty as the people who use them.

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A new offence of supplying a firearm will be introduced to tackle people who hire out weapons to gangs, Home Secretary Theresa May has said.

Ms May told the BBC those supplying guns were "as guilty" as those using them as the impact was just as deadly.

The maximum sentence for the offence, which will apply in England, Wales and Scotland, will be life imprisonment.

It is one of a number of measures to be outlined by David Cameron on Monday in a speech on crime.

Labour MP Keith Vaz, who chairs the cross-party Home Affairs Committee, welcomed the tougher sentences for "gun-running" but said the change must be made in consultation with the police.

The government is looking to regain the initiative after a difficult week dominated by the resignation of the Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell.

'Rented guns'

No 10's handling of Mr Mitchell's departure, five weeks after a confrontation with a police officer outside Downing Street, has been questioned within the Conservative Party.

The prime minister has also been criticised for confusion over the government's energy policy and fresh accusations that senior ministers are out of touch with the public.


David Cameron's crime speech has been a long time in the writing.

No 10 has hinted for months that the prime minister's first major address on law and order was just around the corner.

Other things always seemed to get in the way.

Perhaps that is why a lot of the measures that have been briefed to the papers seem quite familiar.

We knew that payment by results for cutting reoffending was being extended.

The new gun-running offence has been on the cards since earlier in the year.

Therefore it's more interesting for what it tells us about the prime minister's instincts in this area.

Gone are the very 2005-ish ideas of showing more love to young offenders.

In, instead, is the very 2012-ish idea of being tough on crime.

Monday's speech will be an attempt to end what he will characterise as a sterile debate between those who call for tougher sentencing and others who want to see more rehabilitation of offenders and say that "retribution isn't a dirty word".

Ahead of the speech, Mrs May confirmed that gun-runners who supply lethal weapons to gangsters could be given life sentences, telling the BBC's Sunday Politics show the actions of those individuals needed to be treated more seriously.

"We know there are middle men, who have firearms that they then rent out to criminals who then use them.

"There isn't at the moment an offence for someone to possess a firearm with the intent to supply it to someone else.

"I think it is right that we introduce that offence, because those people who are supplying the firearms are as guilty as the people using them when it comes to the impact."

'Strong message'

Since 1968, possessing firearms with intent to endanger life has carried a maximum sentence of life, but the police say it is hard to secure convictions in cases of trafficking by proving intent.

At the moment, people who deal in guns are mostly charged with separate offences under the Firearms Act, which carry sentences of up to 10 years, but ministers have been persuaded of the need for a specific new offence with a tougher penalty.

Welcoming the move, Mr Vaz said: "We have to make sure the law is very strong when people decide to sell firearms illegally or give firearms for other people to use illegally," he said. "This will send out a very strong message to those involved in criminal activity."

The Association of Chief Police Officers said it was vital that those who imported, sold and distributed weapons were "appropriately dealt with" and the penalties "reflected the damage" their actions did to families and communities.

However, a document produced by the Home Office earlier this year questioned the effectiveness of a new offence of possession with intent to traffic weapons.


  • Sentences for offences involving prohibited firearms are covered by the 1968 Firearms Act
  • Possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life (maximum life sentence)
  • Possession with intent to cause fear of violence (maximum 10 years)
  • Illegally importing firearms or ammunition (maximum 10 years)
  • Unregistered selling, transfer or repair of a firearm (maximum five years)
  • Possession, purchase, sale or transfer of prohibited weapons and ammunition (maximum 10 years)

The document, produced as part of a consultation on the issue, said as many as 20 offenders could be affected each year.

It said evidence on whether it would reduce firearms offences by acting as a deterrent was "mixed". Any reduction in gun offences was likely to be temporary, it added, with the gap in the firearms market "likely to be filled by other individuals".

On Monday, the prime minister is also expected to announce that a payment by results system for private companies will be expanded and the practice of giving all prisoners £46 in cash when they are released from prison may be ended.

Labour say that, far from being tough on crime, the government was cutting 15,000 police officers, curbing the use of CCTV cameras and "watering down" regulations on the use of DNA in criminal investigations.

The speech comes after the prime minister replaced Ken Clarke with Chris Grayling as justice secretary in September's reshuffle, a move widely interpreted as a shift to the right.

Mr Grayling has already announced plans to toughen community sentences and give householders who react with force when confronted by burglars more legal protection.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    ''...The key to stopping crime is early intervention and education. The notion of using a prison to "punish" is deeply entrenched in our society, but is completely without basis or logic, and should be scrapped.''

    Logic that evades you,obviously. Prison takes people with bad intent towards others out of circulation for a while. Prison 'educates' them that they should behave. Simples!

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    All I want is scum off my streets for as long as possible. However, I have no doubt this is nothing but rhetoric and the confidence of criminals to avoid proper justice will grow. Our town has 1 policeman for 2 mornings a week between 9 and 12 when you can request an audience! Occasionally you'll see a patrol car picking up takeaway. We do employ 3 street cleaners as no beat cops = massive mess!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    A poll in a national newspaper now makes UKIP the third largest party in the UK. Which I expect will now be represented in the BBC coverage of news and politics to reflect that popularity as they have such a strong reputation for impartiali....

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    Of course he needs to bring in tough measures for 'pleb crime' when the cuts his government are imposing disproportionately hit the poor. Once the welfare safety net for those losing their jobs in this dying economy has been taken away completely crime rates will naturally rise. Thanks to Dave, the law will be ready to hammer those stealing food to feed their families.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    The Coalition could make a start by setting a good example themselves - and bringing to book "white collar" criminals like the bankers who messed up the world economy......

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    he has my vote
    anything to help reduce crime and re offending
    and if that involves putting the offenders in prison for life then so be it.,
    also repatriation should be mandatory for migrants and their families who commit crimes without the need to apply to the courts for it,,if you break the law you should leave ASAP

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    His PR department must be running out of ideas..I suppose it's easy to come up with ideas that people want to hear...then again I'm sure his dining business guests will have already carved up the system.

    How about focusing on creating REAL FULL TIME living wage employment, no part time to make the unemployment figures look good.

    Oh well there's always tomorrow for the next PR spin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Some will never show compassion or understanding towards others but then expect lenience when THEY are sentenced after doing wrong. There's also a violent minority who only understand punishment (and life in general) as a physical thing - maybe physical punishment should be re-enacted for those who only see it that way.
    Recurring law breakers should be treated with escalated harshness & punishment

  • Comment number 183.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    The Prime Minister clearly needs a little education in the area of social behaviours of people, especially young people who are denied a stake in the big picture. You could comfortably wager that crime will rise in the current and forecast circumstances. No amount of silly getting tough crap spouted by DC will affect this. claw a few tens of billions back, filtered offshore and create some jobs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    its the only way tories can hope to carry on stealing from the 99% by making any form of trying to protect what little you have left from the theiving tories a crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    'If only prison time was tougher, no TV, DVD, gyms...
    'Hard working manual work in a military boot camp regime, giving prisoners some kind of skill and work ethic'
    Great Idea!! oh yeah, the tory's tried this back in the 70's!!, didnt work then and wont work now, though it did produce a much better muscle bound fitter thug in fairness

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    146 POG - most of those sent down do their time without appealing. But if you or somebody clsoe to you were convicted you'd want at least one avenue of appeal.

  • Comment number 178.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    Quite simply we need to go back to the way things used to be. When the police had power and the ordinary person could stand up to crime. For too long we have been too caught up in this PC world and certain crimes should have zero tolerance sentencing. The UK is seen as a light touch and has been for too long.

  • Comment number 176.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    From the comments below it would seem that Labour’s spin office is open early for a Sunday.

    Perhaps it would be a good thing if people forgot that this is not a Labour government that never delivered and only bankrupted the nation and give this lot a chance. They are prepared to act not just talk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Right we have been hearing these comments from Tories since the 1980s. DC does not have the will to bring the bankers to justice so he picks on the hoodies.

    DC supported by Limp-Dems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    He could start by jailing Baroness Uddin. She's the one who was barred from the Lords for wrongly claiming £125,000 in expenses but is now back in. These are the people responsible for law making in this country but their laws don't apply to them. The whole system is a joke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    What happened to the promise that we would be allowed to force MPs to resign if we, the electorate, were not happy with the way they were acting? That manifesto policy is something I have not seen much action on. (But we see lots of the idealogical changes that we were not told about.)


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