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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  • Comment number 231.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    I thought he said something like this a few months ago, but nothing happened. Complete knee jerk reaction of a desperate man. The UK is now fuelled by greed from the top down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    Let see large fines for people trying to sit in first class train compartments with a second class ticket or swearing at the police.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    What happened to that great piece of political satire, "The Revolution Will be Televised" with Dale Maily? Has that been banned as part of this new getting tough policy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    3 Strike system like in the US, why should my family & myself along with other good law abiding people of this country have to endure scum who repeatedly break the law and cause heartache & torment.

    Afterall, it's the normal man & women in the street that are normally the victims of crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    In 2010, there were 14,356 assaults on prisoners. There were 318 incidents of self-harm per 1000 prisoners. Yeah, prison sounds like a lovely place to be... And leave the lawyers alone. It's the high-flying tax lawyers who earn all the money, criminal defence barristers are the worst paid out of the lot. They live off the meagre Legal Aid, which gets cut again and again and again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    Human rights have no standing in criminal courts, even the right to life as no standing if the death penalty is legal within the system. Human right do not override our legal system in any way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    with a bit of luck the government will remove us from the Lisbon treaty and stop us being hamstrung by Brussels and their judges,
    ok it will affect a lot of working laws too but at least we will be able to throw off those politically correct shackles and get back to being English,
    and punishing law breakers without fear the conviction will be turned over by an European court,

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    It doesn't seem to matter what the subject is with HYS, every thread is dominated by an 'us and them', 'pleb', 'they don't understand the normal man (me)' mentality.

    Why are we so obsessed in this country with framing everything in terms of a class war? It bows to a divide and rule approach by the left, and is utterly intagible. Work hard, be good to others, look after yourself and your family.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    They can start with a overhaul of sentences. If somebody is sentenced to four years when did this become two years? Four years means four years, life means life. This soft sentencing cons victims and the public. Prision is not feared by many criminals , it needs to be!

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    We do need a tougher law and order stance BUT that means a police FORCE, not a service.The force must be INDEPENDENT of politics where officers are free to work within the law regardless of political wants. It also requires a legal system that is supportive of victims NOT criminals. Convicted criminals should lose all rights in law except freedom from torture. Prisons should become real prisons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    So Adolf Flashman is going to have a crackdown on crime, You mean like people who abuse rail staff people who use foul & insulting behaviour to the police, & enforcing custodial sentences that have been caught stealing 10's of thousands of pounds from HM Treasury such as Mr Law & Mr Cable.I assume British bankers are quaking in their boots! Like you gave 1yr sentences for stealing 60p in the Riots

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    The society we live in is essentially an amoral miasma of greed, fear and selfish materialism enriching our own lives only at the expense of others, not by making the world a better place. So just exactly what is criminal anyway? I guess violence is easy to define as such but much business is theft too.
    Who sets the example? Carrot and stick is a poor motivator, we need role models, ethics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    Maybe Cameron should start with people who try to evade paying the correct amount for the services they use, ie fare doggers

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    Wonder if his speech will include reference to law breakers such as some bankers and other financial sector bosses who bought our economy to the brink? I doubt it very much, it will be more about demonising "the chavs" . After all the upper classes don't commit crime they and their overpaid lawyers just take their just deserts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    Like all of our systems, it needs proper thought and review. All this curreent 'make it a bit more .....' just doesn't get us anywhere.

    We need a change of electoral system that provides stable government, that can work through a common sense set of policies, rather than flip flop around between right wing and left wing rhetoric.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    Once again, one rule for them, another one for us.

    - During the expenses scandal, MP's had to repay the money they 'misappropriated' (shall we say, so my posting is not removed).

    - They then made legislation that any person who 'misappropriates' their income support/unemployment benefit, will receive an automatic £2000 fine, as well as having to repay the money back.

    - Where is the Equity?

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    Our justice system is too soft with criminals, constantly treading on egg shells around their human rights rather than the victims. The deterents are insufficient. All the talk about rehabilitation is useless if there's no hope of leading a normal life when they leave prison. It's hard enough for honest people, let alone those pemanently damaged by a record and where does that lead? Straight back!

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    I wonder if Mr Cameron is actually prepared to spend the money on good rehab services? In the south west drink/drugs are at the root of most convictions/imprisonments but we have virtually no drug rehabs down here & even imprisonment does not mean access to rehab facilities. Yet more pretty words but no investment to make it happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    We have heard all this before. Sentencing policy make no difference to crime figures. It is the detection and conviction rate that matters. Until the legal system and the legal profesion are altered to one that protects people rather than one that favours criminal's rights nothing will change. 'In the interest of justice' usually means in the interest of a lawyers bank balance. Remember Abu Hamza!


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