Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Gwilym Harding (OWB32)

I was a police officer for 30yrs and a large proportion of this was working within an inner city area. This also included a large period of time working on firearm incidences and other violent incidences. To balance this view i have also been a FAC holder for about 20yrs. In view of this i believed i can see this from both side of this argument.

With regard to the possession of corrosive substances in a public place i believe that that there would be very few people who would disagree with the principle of this legislation. the only concern for me would be the practical policing of this new law and more importantly the desire / will of the CPS to prosecute these cases with then offender admitting the offence.

My two main areas of concern are with the possession of a knife in a public place and the changes to the firearms act.

with regard the possession of a knife in a public place there is no need to change the law, as the powers are already there. The reason the reason for the decline in people being arrested / charged with possession of offence weapon is due to the burden of proof that the CPS require before they will attempt a prosecution (It always appears that unless the offender admit the offence, or unless there was some political hot potato). As a person that uses a knife on a daily basis both as a hunter and as a dog trainer my concerns are that any new powers will lead to more law abiding people could fall foul of any new law. i also believe that as a person who collects knifes as an interest it is seriously going to effect those small specialise knife maker who make some excellent knifes. These people do this on a scale that would not make it profitable for them to attend some of the game fairs as their stall fee are to high, therefore if they could not post there knifes it will have a big effect on their business. Use of the current law is enough if more weight is given by the CPS to where the individual is located and what type of knife is carried when deciding if a charged should be made.

With regards to the changes to the firearms Act I was shocked last week when i heard the Home Secretary use the IRA as part of the reason for the change to this act, in particularly in relation to the ownership of 50 calibre rifles. This in my opinion was a sign of how weak the case is for this change. Throughout my 30yrs in the police i never saw or heard of any crime being carried out by anybody in the UK using a 50 calibre rifle. In fact with the amount of conflicts currently happening in the world and the amount of firearms that are being imported into this country by numerous drug gangs and other criminal organisations legally held firearms are not a concern. It would appear once again we are see a weaken government reacting without focus and are trying to show that they are doing something when in fact they are just hitting the easy target.

I would suggest that people who hold FAC are not only a responsible in the way they use their firearms but the way they store them. There is a great deal that could be done within the Firearms Act to aid security and at the same time save a lot of wasted time and money. To do this however people have to be willing to change their mentality as regards people who legal hold firearms. They should not be seen as something evil that has to be gradual got rid of.

In my opinion there is no need to change the law with regards to the possession of 50 calibre rifles.

I sincerely hope that this the government will see that they are once again making a mistake and attacking people who are law abiding.

Gwilym Harding

10 July 2018


Prepared 17th July 2018