Ison Harrison have been campaigning alongside Laura Sugden the partner of Shane Gilmer who was shot dead by a crossbow by his neighbour in January 2018, to tighten the laws on crossbow usage, since Shane’s Inquest in April 2021.  Today the Home Office has launched a call for information and evidence about the introduction of the licensing of crossbows on public safety grounds. This follows on from a full review and supports the requirement for the Government to provide evidence to support legislative changes.

Shane Gilmer was shot dead by a crossbow in his own home in Driffield, East Yorkshire by his neighbour in January 2018. Laura who was also shot with a crossbow survived as did their unborn baby. Since his inquest which took place in April 2021 Laura has tirelessly campaigned to tighten the law on crossbows which has not been amended since its introduction in 1987. The current law only makes it an offence to sell or hire a crossbow, with a draw weight of 1.4 kilograms or greater, to persons under the age of 18 in England, Wales and Scotland and for a person under the age of 18 to possess a crossbow.  Other laws also make it an offence to hunt with a crossbow.

Following the Inquest, as part of her campaign Laura started a Parliamentary Petition which amassed 42,084 signatures from the general public supporting a change in crossbow controls. The Senior Coroner who presided over Shane’s inquest also sent to the Home Office a Prevention of Future Deaths Report detailing his concern about the lack of controls.

The Home Office initially responded to the request stating that the use of crossbows was rare and the current laws strike the correct balance between protecting the public and allowing people to own and use crossbows for legitimate purposes. However, after an intruder was caught entering the grounds of Windsor Castle with a crossbow on Boxing day 2021 the Home Secretary announced that a review would be undertaken.

In the meantime Ison Harrison on Laura’s behalf had sent a Freedom of Information request to all 43 police forces in England and Wales to try and gather data to send on to the Home Office to raise awareness of the number of Crossbow related crimes in the UK.

The outcome of the FOI request made it clear that it was difficult to get a true picture of how many crossbows were being used in criminal activity due to the fact that it is not an offence on its own to possess a crossbow and in fact you had to rely on the reporting officer putting in the free text of the offence details if a crossbow had been involved in that offence.

Laura Sugden, along with her solicitor from the inquest proceedings Gemma Vine, were invited to attend at the Home Office on 13 May 2022 to provide the evidence obtained through the FOI requests, in addition to the other evidence to support the control of crossbows given the lethality of the weapon when used on another individual.

This morning’s news that there will now be a public call for evidence around potential controls that could be put in place going forward is very welcome news.

Laura Sugden said ‘This has been a long time coming but I am delighted that the Government are giving the public the chance to provide evidence in support of the changes we have been campaigning for. This takes us one step nearer to preventing further deaths from these lethal, unregulated weapons’

‘The call of evidence closes at 11.55pm on 9 April 2024 and I would like to encourage the 42,000 people who signed my petition supporting a change to crossbow controls to click on this link and simply answer some of  the questions asked by the Government in support of evidence.’

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