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 911.

    It is a pointless publicity exercise setting maximum sentences for serious offences, if the judiciary will not apply them . Statutory minimum sentencing is what is required, with no room for soft pedalling ; there will be no doubt about what the punishment will be for the guilty and how it will be applied.

  • rate this

    Comment number 910.

    Just more sound bite froth that means nothing, the offence is already illegal under three seperate clauses of the Firearms act 1968 and could attract 3 sentances of 10 years which could be applied sequentially
    So its just more of the same, policy bankrupt tories rattling the pots to make noise without doing anything at all

  • rate this

    Comment number 909.

    #225 "Human right do not override our legal system in any way."

    A right to a fair trial is considered by most as a human right.
    Try reading Wikipedia before posting. You may have a valid point to make about the conflict between the rights of society in general and the rights of an individual. One extreme is a police state, the other is a free for all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 908.

    Some time back the Law was changed and a mandatory sentence of 10 years for carrying a gun, didn't happen knife carrying the same, didn't happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 907.

    They give a prisoner £46 on release from prison that as to last them 2 weeks before they can get JSA payment no wounder some prisoners go back to crime with in days of release and when they change JSA payments to monthly this will make more reoffend just to get by
    This government as lost it with there crack pot ideas they keep coming up with

  • rate this

    Comment number 906.

    @883. wenopay

    Has everyone missed the total hypocrisy here?


    No, has One Nation Ed said something?

  • rate this

    Comment number 905.

    It seems to me that there are plenty of laws governing/covering these things. Police need to be given the resources to do their job to enforce them with a prosecuting judiciary that will see that these crimes come to trial and result in a prosecution.
    Other than that... What is it that Theresa May is trying to create a smokescreen to cover?

  • rate this

    Comment number 904.


    Or America.

    At the same time as the Tories are cutting police numbers by 15,000 they announce this, more lunacy from the posh Eton massive!

    "A police force struggling with huge Tory spending cuts has been slapped with a £500,000 bill – for protecting the Conservative Party conference." (Mirror)

    You could not make this up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 903.

    Culture seems to celebrate the criminal - movies, tv, rap (music?) You and I know this won't change because they fall into the category of 'freedom' of speech/expression, not to mention "money makers". Catch 22.

  • rate this

    Comment number 902.

    Government supplies the drugs to heads of criminal gangs,
    Why do you think our soldiers protect the opium fields in afghan?
    Are you so mis-informed you cant even see the blinding truth?
    thumbs down if you like,facts are still facts!

  • rate this

    Comment number 901.

    The law in this country is a farce, you only need to look at how long it took to get ride of Abu Hamza to come to that conclusion. Currently the system isn't worth the paper its written on. This new law will give escape for criminals to a better life than they get outside prison hence the need to use guns. This is a social issue and one governments have symptomatically failed to address.

  • rate this

    Comment number 900.

    I suppose this tough measure has been dusted off the top shelf for use when the PM appears to be weak. I agree with the measure but I can imagine the "Thick of it" type discussions before the measure was rolled out! Am I being cynical?

  • rate this

    Comment number 899.

    Does this mean the government will have to arrest themselves?

  • rate this

    Comment number 898.

    Great stuff. Now, when will we be cracking down on Billion Pound Corporations (Like E-Bay, hidden in the depths of BBC news)

    Who cares about Guns. We dont need Guns. UK citizens dont need guns, they're too scared to stand up for themselves. Police dont need guns, they do a fine job abusing us with truncheons and tazers.

    Just ban guns. Easy.


    Can you start taxing rich people please?

  • rate this

    Comment number 897.

    So the government are saying there are no laws on supply of guns?

  • rate this

    Comment number 896.

    The Tories don't have any new ideas on crime & punishment, so they make major announcements of minor tweeks to the law & claim to be hard

  • rate this

    Comment number 895.

    Good move. More tough policies on drug gangs ASAP.
    When they have and use grenades as well as guns, as in the police killings in Manchester, it is time to get very tough with them.
    Or do we wait until they have RPG's and similar arsenal like Brazil and Mexico

  • rate this

    Comment number 894.

    @879. Matthew
    The reason why gun ownership is highly limited is to prevent the people once they wake up and put down the remote control, picking up a gun and seizing power off the rich.
    The reason why gun ownership is highly limited - and quite rightly - is because some nutter who was a registered gun owner went on a rampage and killed 15 children. Remember - and never forget - Dunblane

  • rate this

    Comment number 893.

    ''...The reason why gun ownership is highly limited is to prevent the people once they wake up and put down the remote control, picking up a gun and seizing power off the rich.''

    Suppose people with less goods than you could pick up a hammer, break into your house and relieve you of the things that THEY haven't got but you have?

  • rate this

    Comment number 892.

    885.Steve Green

    The real question is how will it be before closed minded idiots realise that there is no deterence effect from how long or stiff prison sentances are on detering criminals?

    They care if they'll caught, not what pubishment comes after.....


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