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 331.

    Just watching Sunday morning Live about the so-called criminal use of cannabis. perhaps if Samira Ahmed were to keep her mouth shut and let the so-called guests speak then we would be able to make up our own minds - a bit like the spouting Cameron.

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime".... no, hang on, the second part is anathema to this government. "Tough on the victims of crime" might be closer to the truth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    My friends friends boyfriend is serving a 5 year sentence, half way through,he lives with her for 4 days ( drinking and smoking dope) then back to open prison 3 days for a rest.

    Life of Riley springs to mind

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    He's going to make the convicts live in YOUR house, because the conditions there are now worse than prison.

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    I'm no left winger but the public need to adopt a new mantra

    " Tough on Cameron and the coalition, Tough on the causes of Cameron and the Coalition"

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    herehe goe`s again talking big but doing nothing ,he is ina world of his own and no one believes him any more,
    lookat recent event soemonemurders and get custody sentence only,
    are the prisons so full no one will be sent to them

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    We should increase prison capacity as quickly as realistically possible and then bang up more of the criminal fraternity for longer. A 3 strikes and you are in for life policy would be excellent.

    The financial savings this would deliver would be massive and could help restore the UK to great.

    Finally, bring back the death penalty and apply consistently for all crimes with an 8 year plus tariff!

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    The PM has brought in a "hard man" as Lord Chancellor. Can we now expect to see a determined crack down on MPs who behave fraudulently, police who hide their criminal activities from public enquiries (Hillsborough), and even our judges who defer to politicians (Widgery/Saville - Bloody Sunday). How do we re-learn to tell the truth, be transparent and accountable, and own up when we cock-up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    David´s approach of "law and order" have to be seen on the background of the England riots that revealed a potential of crime and even anarchy (= things from shops are stolen within chaotic circumstances).

    However, David should tackle the deeper problems of a felt social injustice in poor areas eg of London, David should tackle the problem of social inequality and immobility!

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    most people hate crime

    but it is true to say that crime increases when you lower the standard of living

    by reducing the standard of living further you will see a sharp rise in crime not only of theft but also personal injury as more people become frustrated at those at the top who are still guzzling the bolly or fiddling their expenses while the rest suffer

    There will be more to come!

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    I would hazard a guess that everyone on this HYS who drives a motor vehicle has broken the law. I'd also hazard a guess most haven't been caught; you know where your local speed cameras are, right? Is it hypocritical to comment on law and order when you are an offender who hasn't been caught yet? or does breaking the law 'a little bit' not count?

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    A justice system is not a proactive system that gives us the a crime free society, that comes from values instilled in people in their family units and until we start realising FAMILY empowerment is the answer we will keep needing more prisons, more police officers, more judges and higher crime stats.

    People should be taught how to in-still values into their kids and lead by example

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    Save your breath Dave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    There are a variety of factors that contribute, the first being the 180 degree turn in parental discipline from over strict to totally laissez faire in the 1960's, the demand for one's rights but not recognising personal responsibility & the resultant break down in social community. Harsher punishment will unlikely solve the problem. It's people, parents & communities that need to make the change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    Every time Super Dave opens his mouth , you just wait for the next Ironic Faux Pas to be attached to it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    "How do you explain the fact that many European countries with less brutal penal codes have lower crime rates and some, like the USA, with the death penalty and more brutal penal codes have higher crime rates?"

    You KNOW the answer to that conundrum, as do most of us, and yet if we post the reason it will be flagged off. That's the wonderful world of free speech for you...

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    This is just playing party politics. Hard words with any substance. Pay companies to rehabilitate criminals, reduce the number of police, less money for prisons, but more retribution. Not a good mixture I think. Tebbit is right. Cameron is incompetent and if Labour were any good they would be out of sight in the polls by now. Why can't we have a real alternative to the Tories?

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    What Britain needs is a PM that doesn't talk so much hot air.

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    If those commiting crimes have no fear of punishment then our justice system isn't working. LIke everything in life, for the criminal it's about weighing up the pros and cons, and it's time to make crime too costly to pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    "Fed Up
    Until someone has the courage to bring back the death penalty and increase punishments for crime I see no way of reducing the number of crimes committed."

    How do you explain the fact that many European countries with less brutal penal codes have lower crime rates and some, like the USA, with the death penalty and more brutal penal codes have higher crime rates?


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