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Unauthorised Possession or Use of a Pistol or Prohibited Firearm

Unauthorised Possession or Use of a Pistol or Prohibited Firearm is an offence under Section 7 of the Firearms Act 1996 which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You possessed or used a pistol or prohibited firearm, and
  2. You were not authorised to do so by a permit or licence

Section 4 of the Act provides that you are in ‘possession’ if:

  1. You have custody of the item, or
  2. You have it in the custody of another person, or
  3. It is in or on any premises, place, vehicle, vessel or aircraft, whether or not belonging to or occupied by you

Section 4A makes clear that possession encompasses where the item is in or on any premises you own, lease or occupy, or in your care, control or management, unless you satisfy the court that:

  1. It was placed in or on, or brought into or on to, the premises by or on behalf of a person who was authorised to do so, or
  2. You did not know and could not reasonably be expected to have known that
  3. It was in or on the premises, or
  4. There is evidence you were not in possession of the firearm.

‘Premises’ means any place, vehicle, vessel or aircraft.

A ‘firearm’ defined as:

A gun, or other weapon, that is or was, capable of propelling a projectile by means of an explosive, and includes a blank fire firearm, or an air gun, but does not include a paintball marker.

A ‘pistol’ is  a firearm that:

  1. is reasonably capable of being raised and fired by one hand, and
  2. does not exceed the dimensios prescribed by the regulations

Schedule 1 of the Act contains a long list of ‘prohibit firearms’ which include:

  1. Machine guns, sub-machine guns and other automatic weapons capable of shooting bullets in rapid succession
  2. Self-loading shotguns, rim-fire and centre fire rifles
  3. Firearms capable of discharging liquid, powder, gas, chemicals, flares or dye
  4. Canons and powerheads, and\
  5. Firearms disguised as other items, such as walking sticks

Section 4D makes clear that it includes an ‘imitation firearm’ which is an object that, regardless of its colour, weight or composition, or the presence or absence of any moveable parts, substantially duplicates in appearance a firearm, but is not a firearm. It does not include an object produced and identified as a children’s toy.

Defences to the charge include:

  1. Duress
  2. Necessity, and
  3. Self-defence

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