Successful Condemnation Proceedings
In December 2023 I was instructed in Condemnation Proceedings at Manchester Magistrates Court. These are hearings where the owner of goods can appeal the lawfulness of a Seizure by Border Force. If the Claimant (the owner) is successful the goods are returned. If not they are destroyed.
The case concerned the importation from the Czech Republic of parts for Long Barrelled (LBR) and Muzzle Loading Revolvers (MLR). The pattern of both items is the same, the only differences are that the LBRs have a longer barrel to comply with English law. The MLRs are not Proof Tested at the factory, unlike the LBRs, so they have never been fired. The MLRs are imported without a cylinder, a Muzzle Loading cylinder is then fitted in England. Therefore it is the frame for the MLR that the case concerned.
The case brought by the NCA on behalf of Border Force relied on Section 7 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988. This provides that if a firearm has ever been one to which Section 5 of the 1968 Act (prohibited weapons) applies, it cannot be ‘down graded’ or ‘converted’ to a firearm in a lower category. The importer had the correct licenses to import Section 1 firearms and possess them here. They did not have a Section 5 authority.
The case therefore turned on whether the MLRs had ever been fired. If they had been, the revolver frames would, if only briefly, have been relevant component parts of a Section 5 weapon, due to the dimensions of the revolver frame, and would remain Section 5 components forever more.
The evidence from the NCA was that there was gunshot discharge residue (‘GSR’) in the barrel of the MLR. There were also some marks on the frame which it was suggested were caused by a cylinder having been placed in the frame and then being fired. The Claimants case was that the marks were part of the manufacturing process and the GSR would have got into the barrel as part of the final cleaning and oiling process at the factory where all revolvers of both types, those that have been Proofed, and those that had not, were dealt with at the same bench. There was a high risk of GSR contamination from the cleaning swabs.
After hearing two days of evidence the District Judge found in favour of the Claimants and the goods have been returned to them.