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 971.

    What would the position in Law be if a person sold an illegal gun to someone who legally shot a burglar while defending his house?

  • rate this

    Comment number 970.

    I rang the Police after a certain incident..and ..Sting told me to B$$$$R off !!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 969.

    One of our most popular and successful colonys was that of Malaya and Singapore. On our departure they decided to retain our legal system but with a few amendmendments.
    Anyone carrying a firearm while perpetrating a crime, whether they use it or not, is hanged.

  • rate this

    Comment number 968.

    @935 'Matthew'
    Yes, Matthew, whatever you say must be right with all your legally registered guns. Will you be fighting all those drug dealers with illegal guns that roam around with impunity? We need a superhero in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 967.

    Dear moderators

    Please if anyone mention's bankers in their message in this debate please remove all of the offending articles as it has nothing to do with guns (there are quite a few)

    Because quite frankly it boring.

  • rate this

    Comment number 966.


    Being poor does not give anyone the right to break the law, but really poor people CAN (not always) be forced into a mindset where they feel they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

    That doesn't make it right or reasoned, but circumstances can easily play with someones psychology. After all, we have people who deem themselves better just because they have more money!

  • rate this

    Comment number 965.

    I was one surrounded in my car in Swindon at 11pm by three others cars, blasting music, with a bunch of yobs in such a way that I couldn't move the vehicle or even open my door for 10 mins. Luckily my partner,had a phone & called the Police, their advice 'Have you tried talking to them ?' I'm glad I didn't have easy access to a weapon for self defence. Police ? don't make me laugh !

  • rate this

    Comment number 964.

    @952 secret banker

    Marches in the streets, corrupt polticians, press, police, bankers, crumbling economy, barely disguised class warfare, increasing poverty for all. Welcome to GB 2012. We live in 'interesting times'.

    Yes, indeed we do, just like Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal etc..
    Common denominator?
    'austerity measures' or, to put it bluntly, protect the greedy at the expense of the weak.

  • rate this

    Comment number 963.

    Has anyone ever wondered why all of the most senior members of the UK’s military, so officer class are from wealthy backgrounds, they have had private schooling, not one has worked his / her way up through the ranks? It is so the armed forces are controlled by the very people that they are supposed to protect the people from, the Government and the rich, thats why the people need guns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 962.

    If this wasn't already a crime, then Theresa May and her band of idiots are more feckless than I already thought

  • rate this

    Comment number 961.

    Was that speech by Theresa May-Do-Something, or her better known twin sister Theresa May-Do-Nothing-As-Usual? The sisters are so difficult to tell apart.

    Talk is cheap (certainly cheaper than a 1st class upgrade on Virgin as her chum Osborne knows). We'll wait to see what actually changes.....

    Also, there is also the danger it's actually a Cleggy, rather than a real promise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 960.

    Why a maximum sentence? Surely supplying a gun is a black or white issue, you either did or you didn't.

    Is "well I didn't know he was going to shoot someone" a valid excuse? What did you think he was going to do with a gun?

    Minimum sentence 10 years and hang them for murder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 959.

    At the moment we put persistant shop-lifters in prison but give those charged with violent crime bail & short sentences if convicted, how often do you hear the perpetrator of a violent crime was on bail for a similar offence or just released after a short sentence. I'm no fan of shop-lifters but correctly proritising who goes to prison has the potential to have a real effect on violent crime

  • rate this

    Comment number 958.

    Another excellent idea by a government who is about to cut 20% of police officer numbers. Before this govenment takes further steps to show just how 'tough' they are on crime, let them release the figures for seizures of firearms across the UK. In my local paper every week there are numerous stories of guns being seized by police. Solution? No sacking of cops and soldiers on the streets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 957.


    The real plebs are those of you who are suggesting that being poor gives you right or a reason to break the law. NO IT DOES NOT.
    I was raised in a one-parent family with very little. Not once did any of us EVER consider stealing. You never need to do this ... NEVER!

    Yes we need stronger sentences and yes they need to be applied. But their is never any good reason to break the law

  • rate this

    Comment number 956.

    I wondered how long before Tories would seek to change the boundries on something - Damn you Clegg - hahahaha

  • rate this

    Comment number 955.

    It is already illegal to be in possession of an unlicensed firearm - it doesn't matter the reason it is held, judges have a range of sentencing available already. Simply apply the law as it stands and review the sentences available for it - no need for new laws or silly political point scoring trying to be seen to be tough on crime when this government is cutting prison places, hypocrites.

  • rate this

    Comment number 954.

    Cop hate kids and kids hate cops

    Cops kill kids with warning shots

    What's is crime and what is not,

    Go on squeeze the trigger, the hardcore
    Ain't nothing going to change copper

  • rate this

    Comment number 953.

    Not much point posting here - the BBC politically-correct censors delete anything that offend their liberal/left sensibilities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 952.

    Marches in the streets, corrupt polticians, press, police, bankers, crumbling economy, barely disguised class warfare, increasing poverty for all. Welcome to GB 2012. We live in 'interesting times'.

    How far we have come since the Jubillee and Olympics. We had a golden opportunity to build on the feel good factor and the numpties in power threw it away. I have no confidence in the UK government.


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