Threats to Re-enacting
"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance"
A recent court case has shown two things - that we be responsible when transporting any type of weaponry, and how useful NAReS' work representing the hobby to lawmakers has been.
A 56 year old man was preparing for a history display by the Northern World War II Association. He was in his vintage car with some of his kit under a blanket on the back seat, and had parked illegally to go and collect some items, when a member of the public reported to the police seeing the butt of his replica machine gun and bayonet on the back seat of the car. An armed response unit was called, and he was arrested and charged with possession of an imitation firearm in a public place. After five court appearances, the re-enactor was released, after pleading guilty, and receiving a twelve-month conditional discharge. His deactivated MP34 machine gun and pistols were returned. The Judge told him 'I'm quite satisfied that you are not a criminal and this is part of your hobby'. South Yorkshire Police had requested the forfeiture and destruction of the rare 1934 weapon and two other replica pistols but the Judge said 'I do not want historical artefacts to be destroyed so I am not going to make the requested order'.
An imitation firearm is defined by the Firearms Act 1968 as "anything which has the appearance of being a firearm, whether or not it is capable of discharging any shot, bullet or other missile." "It is an offence to carry an imitation firearm in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse." His legal team argued in court that he was being prosecuted for pursuing his interest in historical re-enacting, which is regarded as a defence in law against weapon related charges (as negotiated by NAReS) and after listening to the evidence the Judge at Sheffield Crown Court said that common sense should be applied to the case. The Judge said that he hoped the re-enactor had learned a salutary lesson over the police response which reflected the times we live in. The police returned all his weaponry on condition that he keeps them in a locked cabinet at home and when they are in transit to and from events, they are kept out of sight, safely locked in his car boot.
We may have the privilege of legal protections with regard to our weaponry, but these do not excuse us from the consequences of bad practice in the transportation of weapons.
Therefore, whenever you are going to the ranges or to a re-enactment, always make sure that guns, swords and bayonets are out of sight, locked in your boot or otherwise secured, well covered up, so that anybody looking from outside into your vehicle sees noweaponry. If stopped by the police or challenged, have with you either the invitation to go to the event or the current newsletter with the events list on it, to show the policeman that you have reasonable cause to be travelling with these things. Also at all times have with you your licenses and membership card. If you do not, then things, as above, are likely to happen.
May we also remind you of the 2010 case where a trader at Lincoln Christmas Market was convicted of affray and possession of offensive weapons in public. He had been drinking following the cancellation of the event, and drew his sword and knife, waving them at other customers of a pub. His weapons were forfeited and destroyed, and he received a suspended sentence and an unpaid work order.
Please, folks, be careful out there!
NAReS is currently following up reports of an ongoing case involving weapons at Northampton Crown Court and will further advise when the full facts become known.
Philip Clark. ACWS Secretary
The above article first appeared in the ACWS Newsletter, Spring 2012