Tougher crossbow laws considered in bid to prevent violent attacks

The previous government looked at bringing in firearms licensing-style rules in the wake of a threat to kill the late Queen.

Killings involving a crossbow are typically rare but ministers had considered tightening laws in a bid to stop the weapons being used in violent attacks.

The previous government looked at bringing in firearms licensing-style rules in the wake of an attempt to kill the late Queen with a crossbow.

There is currently no registration system for owning a crossbow, no requirement for a licence and they appear to be readily available to buy online.

But it is illegal for anyone under 18 to buy or own one, with anyone carrying a crossbow in public without a reasonable excuse facing up to four years behind bars.

Jaswant Singh Chail in navy hoodie and blue medical mask with police officer bending down
Jaswant Singh Chail was jailed for nine years last year after admitting treason, making a threat to kill the then Queen, and having a loaded crossbow (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Plans for crossbow owners to face police checks were mooted as part of efforts to “step up action to prevent violence on our streets”, the Home Office said earlier this year.

The department launched an eight-week consultation in February to see if there should be a licensing system to control the use, ownership and supply of crossbows, with anyone looking to buy one facing police checks – similar to regulations already in place for firearms.

The Home Office completed the work in April but the General Election being called stalled any further progress until now.

Newly appointed Home Secretary Yvette Cooper is understood to be in the process of considering the findings in the wake of the latest attack, having been supportive of the move during her time in Labour’s opposition cabinet.

Tuesday’s killings in Bushey, Hertfordshire, which police believed involved a crossbow, follow other recent incidents featuring the weapon.

Convicted stalker Bryce Hodgson was shot dead by police in January after he broke into a London home armed with weapons including a crossbow.

Former home secretary Priti Patel ordered the review of crossbow rules after would-be assassin Jaswant Singh Chail was encouraged by an AI chatbot to break into Windsor Castle on Christmas Day 2021 with a loaded crossbow to kill the late Queen.

The 21-year-old was jailed for nine years in October last year and handed a further five years on extended licence after admitting treason, making a threat to kill the then Queen, and having a loaded crossbow.

According to the Home Office, there were fewer than 10 killings involving a crossbow between 2011 and 2021 but the department said it was “clear that when used as a weapon, crossbows do pose a risk”.

Then-safeguarding minister Laura Farris said crossbows were “used rarely in violent crime in this country but they can be highly dangerous”.

In January last year a domestic homicide review found the Metropolitan Police missed opportunities to protect Sana Muhammad from her ex-husband in the years before he killed her with a crossbow.

The 35-year-old was eight months pregnant when former nurse Ramanodge Unmathallegadoo, then 51, burst into her home and fired an arrow into her stomach in 2018.

The pair had divorced four years earlier after entering into an arranged marriage in their home country of Mauritius in 1999, when Ms Muhammad was 17.

She died after sustaining catastrophic internal injuries from the attack but her unborn son – who was delivered by Caesarean section – miraculously survived.

Unmathallegadoo is likely to die in jail after he was found guilty of murder and handed a life sentence with a minimum term of 33 years in 2019.

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