A 30-year-old man was shot dead by armed police this week after he was seen by police officers threatening the occupants of a property while brandishing a crossbow. The incident brought the issue of regulations surrounding the use and storage of crossbows back into the public domain and highlighted the need to conclude a Home Office review of existing laws. Ison Harrison has been campaigning for these changes for over two years following the high profile Shane Gilmer Inquest verdict.

Armed officers entered a property in Surrey Quays, London, at 05.00 am on the morning of January 30th 2024, after local police officers had called for back-up having heard a man threaten occupants of the property. The man also threatened police officers after they attempted to speak to him, he was carrying a crossbow and died at the scene having been shot twice by armed officers, whereupon he was also found to have a knife, sword and hatchet in his possession. A police cordon continues to be in place on the street, while armed police claimed their actions were necessary “to prevent further loss of life”. It is believed the as-yet-unnamed man knew at least one person inside the property, and two of its occupants were treated for minor injuries following the incident.

Ison Harrison campaign triggers Home Office review

Fatal police shootings in the UK are very rare. This is the first in 2024 and there was only one in the entirety of 2023. However, incidents involving crossbows are much more common, which is why this latest fatality highlights the need for an urgent conclusion to the Home Office review into existing crossbow laws, which we campaigned for in 2021.

Shane Gilmer was shot dead by a crossbow in his own home in Driffield, East Yorkshire, after being attacked by his neighbour Anthony Lawrence in January 2018. There had been a series of neighbourly disputes between the two parties and Lawrence had been served with an eviction notice prior to the fatal shooting. Mr Gilmer and his partner, Laura Sugden, returned from an evening out to find Lawrence lying in wait for them in their own home, having gained access to their property through the loft space and an adjoining wall. Lawrence – who had a history of violence and was found dead following an overdose two days later – confronted Mr Gilmer and shot him twice with the crossbow, while also shooting Ms Sugden, who miraculously survived, as did their then-unborn baby.

At the Inquest in April 2021, Coroner Paul Marks returned a verdict of ‘unlawful killing’, but also commented that there was a possibility of future killings because crossbow possession was not recorded, unlike regulations surrounding shotguns and other firearms. Following the Inquest, Ison Harrison – who represented Mr Gilmer and Ms Sugden – joined forces with Ms Sugden in May 2021, to approach then Home Secretary Priti Patel with a request to change the crossbow laws, however the Government claimed it had no interest in changing the existing regulations because incidents involving crossbows were “very rare”.

A need for ‘Shane’s Law’ highlighted by fatal shooting

Following this false start, Ison Harrison was able to establish that Humberside Police Force had recorded 32 incidents involving crossbows between 2017 and 2020, and then wrote to all 49 police forces in England and Wales to gather comparable data. This evidence was presented to the Home Office by Gemma Vine (specialist Inquest solicitor for Ison Harrison) and Laura Sugden in May 2022. The Home Office instigated a review of the current regulations, which is still ongoing. Ison Harrison also worked alongside Ms Sugden in issuing an open letter to the producers of the ITV show ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ after a stunt on the programme involved the fake shooting of judge Simon Cowell using a crossbow. The campaign team were appalled that a crossbow was being used for entertainment when it is evidently a potentially fatal weapon, just like a shotgun or any other firearm.

Meanwhile, the latest fatal incident in London this week intensifies the spotlight on the crossbow regulations, and at Ison Harrison we would encourage the Home Office to conclude its findings as soon as possible, with a view to implementing tighter legislation – named as ‘Shane’s Law’ by campaigners – to avoid further incidents and potential fatalities.

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