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Explosives

Updated 26 October 2017

Principle

The main explosives offences relate to:

  • explosives and explosions endangering life or causing damage to property;
  • the safety, manufacture, acquisition and storage of explosive substances in the workplace;
  • explosive articles linked to terrorist activities;
  • the control of explosives precursors to the general public; and
  • the sale and use of fireworks.

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Preliminary Considerations

Expert Evidence - Proof of Explosive or Explosion

Expert evidence will be required whenever the manufacture, possession or use of any explosive substance is alleged in order to fully identify the articles in question. The evidence must set out that the substance in question is an explosive and its type.

Positive proof of an explosion, as opposed to combustion or some other form of reaction, will also require expert evidence. Particular care should be taken with regard to incidents involving petrol bombs as they may either explode or combust, and with incendiary devices which are designed to cause fire.

For Explosive Substances Act 1883 cases, prosecutors must ensure, even when charging under the Threshold Test, that they have at the very least an initial statement or report from either the Forensic Explosive Laboratory (FEL) at Fort Halstead or from Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) military personnel confirming that the device came within the Explosive Substances Act 1883 definition of an explosive substance, and setting out what that substance was. Such evidence, even in draft form, will be required in order for the Attorney General to properly consider the giving of consent.

For more information on experts please see the legal guidance Expert Evidence.

Code for Crown Prosecutors

A prosecution will generally be in the public interest where there is a clear risk to public safety.

A prosecution may not be required, or alternative diversionary procedures may be appropriate, where the contravention is technical and there has been no risk to public safety and the offence resulted from an oversight or misunderstanding.

Definitions

The definitions of "explosive" and "explosive substance" vary across the different Acts and Regulations. Prosecutors should consider the particular definitions used in the relevant legislation creating the offence and cannot rely on a definition in one Act as applying to another Act or Regulation.

Section 9 of the Explosive Substances Act 1883 defines explosive substance, it does not define explosive:

The expression "explosive substance" shall be deemed to include any materials for making any explosive substance; also any apparatus, machine, implement, or materials used, or intended to be used, or adapted for causing, or aiding in causing, any explosion in or with any explosive substance; also any part of any such apparatus, machine, or implement.

This would enable a prosecution to proceed in respect of a collection of chemicals suitable for the production of explosives. It is not clear, however, that it would extend to the possession of information, such as a manual or internet download. In these circumstances, the SCCTD may consider charges under Section 58 of Terrorism Act 2000. Please see the section on Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2006.

In R v Wheatley [1979] 1 W.L.R. 144 it was held that section 4(1) of the Explosive Substances Act 1883 should be construed in the light of the definition of "explosive", which includes producing a pyrotechnic effect, in section 3 of the Explosives Act 1875 which says:

This Act shall apply to gunpowder and other explosives as defined by this section. The term explosive in this Act - (1) Means gunpowder, nitroglycerine, dynamite, gun-cotton, blasting powders, fulminate of mercury or of other metals, coloured fires and every other substance, whether similar to those above mentioned or not, used or manufactured with a view to producing a practical effect by explosion or a pyrotechnic effect; and (2) includes fog-signals, fireworks, fuzes, rockets, percussion caps, detonators, cartridges, ammunition of all description, and every adaptation or preparation of an explosive as above defined.

R v Wheatley was applied in R v Bouch [1982] 3 W.L.R. 673 to hold that a petrol bomb is an explosive substance within the Explosive Substances Act 1883 section 3(b) producing a pyrotechnic effect within the Explosives Act 1875 section 3.

R v Bouch was followed in R v Howard [1993] Crim.L.R. 213, CA in which it was concluded that a petrol bomb, made from a milk bottle containing petrol, air and a wick, was an explosive substance within the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 section 29.

For prosecutions under the 1883 Act, the term "explosive substance" has been held to include a shot gun in R v Downey [1971] NI 244 and a part of a vessel which itself is filled with an explosive substance in R v Charles (1892) 17 Cox 499.

The Explosives Regulations 2014 define "explosive" as:

  1. any explosive article or explosive substance which would -
    1. if packaged for transport, be classified in accordance with the United Nations Recommendations as falling within Class 1; or
    2. be classified in accordance with the United Nations Recommendations as -
      (aa) being unduly sensitive or so reactive as to be subject to spontaneous reaction and accordingly too dangerous to transport, and
      (bb) falling within Class 1; or
  2. a desensitised explosive,

but it does not include an explosive substance produced as part of a manufacturing process which thereafter reprocesses it in order to produce a substance or preparation which is not an explosive substance ...

The Explosives Regulations 2014 define "explosive substance" as:

A substance or preparation, not including a substance or preparation in a solely gaseous form or in the form of vapour, which is -

  1. capable by chemical reaction in itself of producing gas at such a temperature and pressure and at such a speed as could cause damage to surroundings; or
  2. designed to produce an effect by heat, light, sound, gas or smoke, or a combination of these as a result of a non-detonative, self-sustaining, exothermic chemical reaction;

"Fireworks" are defined by Regulation 3 of the Fireworks Regulations 2004 (SI 2004 No.1836) as any article, intended for entertainment purposes, containing explosive substances or an explosive mixture of substances designed to produce heat, light, sound, gas or smoke or a combination of such effects through self-sustained exothermic chemical reactions.

In the Explosives Regulations 2014 "fireworks" means the explosive articles assigned in accordance with the United Nations Recommendations of the U.N. nos. 0333 to 0337 which states that fireworks are pyrotechnic articles designed for entertainment.

The Fireworks Regulations 2004 also refer to "adult fireworks' which are defined as:

  1. category F2 firework - which present a low hazard and low noise level and which are intended for outdoor use in confined areas (paragraph 2 of the Schedule 1 to the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015/1553)
  2. category F3 firework - which present a medium hazard, which are intended for outdoor use in large open areas and whose noise level is not harmful to human health (paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 to the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015/1553)
  3. category F4 firework - which present a high hazard, which are intended for use only by persons with specialist knowledge and whose noise level is not harmful to human health. (paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 to the 2015 Regulations)

The Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015 define a pyrotechnic article as 'an article which contains explosive substances or an explosive mixture of substances designed to produce heat, light, sound, gas or smoke or a combination of such effects through self-sustained exothermic chemical reactions'.

Section 2(3) of the Poisons Act 1972 defines a 'regulated explosives precursor' and states that:

  1. Subject to subsection (4), a "regulated explosives precursor"-
    1. is a substance listed in Part 1 of Schedule 1A in a concentration higher than the limit set out for that substance in that Part, and
    2. includes a mixture or another substance in which a substance listed in that Part is present in a concentration higher than the relevant limit,
    but, in each case, only if the substance or mixture is not excluded.
  2. For the purposes of section 3C however, and the meaning of "regulated substance" in or in relation to that section, a "regulated explosives precursor"-
    1. is a substance listed in Part 1 of Schedule 1A, and
    2. includes a mixture or another substance in which a substance listed in that Part is present,
    but, in each case, only if the substance or mixture is not excluded.

Primacy

Normally, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), rather than the CPS, will have primacy in relation to offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Breaches of the Explosives Regulations 2014, which cover the manufacture, storage and acquisition of explosives, constitute offences contrary to section 33 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the HSE will also have primacy in these cases.

Where a CPS prosecutor has associated criminal matters outside the scope of the 1974 Act, it may be appropriate for the 1974 Act offences and associated criminal matters to be dealt with together by the CPS.

In the event of a joint prosecution with the HSE, prosecutors should refer to the Work Related Deaths: A Protocol for Liaison (England and Wales) between HSE, the police and CPS.

Where the CPS is approached with a view to granting consent under section 38 of the 1974 Act the matter should always be referred to Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division (SCCTD).

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Charging Practice

Where consideration is being given to the application of the legislation to a particular explosive, advice from an explosives expert may be of assistance.

Overlaps can occur between the various more serious offences of possessing/using explosives for crime outlined below. It is important that the indictment is not unnecessarily overloaded but also that it does accurately reflect the full extent of the criminality alleged.

The correct offence to charge when dealing with conspiracies to cause an explosion likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property is section 3(1)(a) of the Explosive Substances Act 1883. While section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 covers the offence of conspiracy, it should not be used where statutory, substantive conspiracy charges exist such as that in the 1883 Act (R v David Edward Ayres (1984) 78 Cr. App. R. 232).

Consent to Prosecute

Section 7 of the Explosive Substances Act 1883 states that Attorney General Consent is required to institute proceedings under this Act.

Section 38 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 requires the consent of the DPP before proceeding with offences under the 1974 Act.

For more information on consent, including timing of consent, please see the Consents to Prosecute legal guidance.

Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2006

Any case involving a possible charge under the terrorism legislation (Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2006) should be immediately referred to Counter Terrorism Unit in the Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division (SCCTD) and not dealt with by Area or CPS Direct prosecutors.

In a few cases involving explosives, the possibility of a prosecution under the counter-terrorism legislation will arise. The Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2006 create a wide variety of offences, and most investigations are dealt with by specialist police units and referred directly to the Counter Terrorism Division. However, it is possible that prosecutors will be presented with cases where the legislation is applicable, for example, where involvement with explosives is in some way linked to extremist political, religious or ideological activities which may include extreme right wing motivation. Note that where there is the use or threat of use of explosives, it is not necessary to prove that the action is designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, as is the case with other terrorist offences.

The line between an Explosive Substances Act 1883 offence or an offence under Terrorism legislation is not always clear. Advice and guidance should be sought from SCCTD whenever the charging of an offence under the 1883 Act is being considered where there may possibly be a terrorist link.

If your case is one that potentially fits into the above category, contact the SCCTD.

More information can be found in the Referral of Cases guidance.

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Main Acts and regulations including Sanctions

The legislation and offences covering explosives can be found in the following main pieces of legislation which are listed chronologically:

  • Offences Against the Person Act 1861
  • Explosives Act 1875
  • Explosive Substances Act 1883
  • Criminal Damage Act 1971
  • Poisons Act 1972
  • Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
  • Fireworks Act 2003
  • The Explosives Regulations 2014
  • Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015
  • Policing and Crime Act 2017

The offences arising from the above legislation vary significantly in seriousness and the accompanying sanctions reflect this. Only additional information and case law is listed in this section. For detailed information on all relevant Acts, Regulations, offences and sanctions, please see the summary table at Annex A.

Explosives Act 1875

Section 23 of the 1875 Act was repealed by the Explosives Regulations 2014.

The Fireworks Act 2003 c. 22 Sch.1 para. 1 seeks to repeal sections 30-32 and 80 on a date to be appointed. No date has been set. These sections therefore remain in force pending an effective date of repeal.

Where the term "gunpowder" is used, section 39 of the Act makes that term applicable to all other explosives covered by the Act.

Explosive Substances Act 1883

The 1883 Act is the principal legislation for offences of causing explosions or possessing explosives with intent to endanger life or to cause serious injury to property. As mentioned in the section on consent, Section 7 of the Explosive Substances Act 1883 states that Attorney General Consent is required to institute proceedings under this Act.

Please also see the guidance in the Charging Practice section on Terrorism and referrals to SCCTD where there may possibly be a terrorist link to cases being charged under the 1883 Act.

Knowledge of the actual criminal offence committed need not be shown before a person can be convicted of aiding and abetting; it is sufficient for prosecutors to show that s/he knew the type of offence to be committed or the essential matters constituting the offence (DPP of Northern Ireland v Maxwell, (1979) 68 Cr. App. R. 128).

The offence under section 2 of the 1883 Act is wider than the Offences Against the Persons Act offences because:

  1. it covers both damage to property, risk of serious injury and risk to life and
  2. "likely" is an objective test which does not involve the arguments concerning intent (or recklessness).

Information on offences under the Offences Against the Persons Act can be found in the table at Annex A.

The use of 'likely' in section 2 can be construed in the sense of 'could well happen' (R v Marcus [2013] NICA 60 2013 WL 6980647) rather than that it was probable or more likely than not. The similarities in the use of 'likely' in sections 2 and 3 may indicate that this also applies to section 3(1)(a) "does any act with intent to cause, or conspires to cause, by an explosive substance an explosion of a nature likely to endanger life, or cause serious injury to property, whether in the United Kingdom or [elsewhere]".

The case of Black (Gavin Lawson) v HM Advocate 1974 J.C. 43 provides more information on the meaning of 'possession' and 'control' of explosives used in section 3(1)(b) and section 4(1). More than mere knowledge of the presence of explosives is necessary in order to justify a conviction under section 3(1)(b) or 4(1). Prosecutors need to establish that the offender knew the character of the substance in their possession or control otherwise it could be argued the intent was not there.

For prosecutions under section 4, prosecutors must prove that the defendant had the explosive substance within his possession and control; knowledge of the presence of an explosive substance is not sufficient (R v Rutter and White [1959] Crim. L.R. 288), and that he knew it was an explosive substance or piece of apparatus for use in causing an explosion (R v Berry (John Rodney) (No.3) [1995] 1 W.L.R. 7 and R v Hallam (James Edward) [1957] 1 Q.B. 569) .

For a defendant to have a 'lawful object' within the meaning of section 4, it is not enough to show the s/he did not have a criminal object, s/he has to have a positive, lawful object (R v Riding (David) [2009] EWCA Crim 892). Whether or not a substance is legal in another jurisdiction is irrelevant and does not constitute a defence (R v Berry (John Rodney) [1995] 1 W.L.R. 7).

The defence of 'lawful object' or self-defence may be used by the defendant facing charges under section 4 of the Explosive Substances Act 1883 if s/he can satisfy the jury on the balance of probabilities that the explosive object was to protect themselves, their family and/or property against imminent attack. However, once the threat has passed, if s/he still remains in possession of the object, this is not a defence (Attorney General's Reference (No.2 of 1983) [1984] 2 W.L.R. 465.

Sentencing under the Explosives Substances Act 1883

In relation to sentencing for contraventions of section 3, prosecutors will need to be aware of the intention and 'primary purpose' of the offenders. R v McDonald (Michael Christopher) (Appeal against Sentence) [2005] EWCA Crim 1945 indicates that, what is important is whether the offenders realised it was likely that the explosive substance might be used to endanger life as per section 3(1)(a).

Conduct which is likely to endanger life, or has endangering life as its primary purpose, is graver than conduct which is likely to cause serious injury to property and should therefore attract a higher sentence. In cases where the primary intention was to damage property, however, the court should not overlook the fact that there was a likelihood of endangering life (R v Byrne (Edward Joseph) (1976) 62 Cr. App. R. 159.

Prosecutors should be aware that previous good character and age do not provide a suitable mitigation for reduced sentences under section 3. If the intention is to endanger lives or cause serious damage to property that is enough to warrant a sentence towards the higher end of the scale (R v Geoffrey Howard Wildy [2003] EWCA Crim 1571).

While the maximum sanction for section 4 offences is imprisonment for life, judges will take into account expressions of remorse, the age of the offender and previous criminal history and sentence accordingly. Sentencing is however, a balance and in some cases the serious nature, circumstances and/or prevalence of the offence may require a custodial sentence in order to serve as a deterrent to others and this should take priority over the personal details of the offender (R v McDowell [2014] NICA 6 2014 WL 517633).

Criminal Damage Act 1971

Section 1 of the 1971 Act may be the appropriate offence where a minor explosion causes damage to property for example, where an offender detonates explosives in a spirit of reckless curiosity, without the intent necessary for more serious offences. If damage to property occurs as a result of combustion of an article the appropriate charge may be one of arson, with or without intent to endanger life. For further information see the legal guidance on Criminal Damage.

Poisons Act 1972

On 26 May 2015, changes were made to the Poisons Act 1972 by The Deregulation Act 2015 and The Control of Poisons and Explosives Precursors Regulations 2015 to strengthen the control of harmful substances, regulated poisons and explosives precursors, to the general public. The changes relate to licensing, labelling, reporting and enforcement and create a new set of offences. The CPS has primacy in relation to offences under the Poisons Act 1972.

Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

The regulations made subsequently under the 1974 Act (and certain sections of the Explosives Act 1875) are concerned with offences and breaches of regulations, relating to health and safety, acquisition, manufacture, storage, security, sale and certain unlawful uses of explosives.

Section 1 (1) (c) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 covers, 'controlling, the keeping of explosives or highly flammable or otherwise dangerous substances and generally preventing the unlawful acquisition, possession and use of such substances'.

Normally, the Health and Safety Executive (rather than the CPS) will have primacy in relation to offences under the 1974 Act, please see the section on primacy for more information.

Fireworks Act 2003 and Fireworks Regulations 2004

The Fireworks Act 2003 gives the Secretary of State the power to create fireworks regulations to regulate their supply and use and to minimise the risk of their causing death, injury or distress to persons or animals (and also alarm or anxiety to persons) or destruction of, or damage to, property.

The Fireworks Regulations 2004 (SI 1836:2004) were amended by the Fireworks (Amendment) Regulations 2004 (SI 3262:2004).

The regulation offences are within the Penalty Notice for Disorder Scheme. Regulation 12 makes these regulations enforceable by the police. Please see the Ministry of Justice Penalty Notices for Disorder (PNDs) for more information on this scheme.

The Explosives Regulations 2014

The Explosives Regulations 2014 came into force on 1 October 2014 save for regulations 33(7) and 36, and regulations 43 and 44 and Schedule 11 to the extent that those regulations relate to regulations 33(7) and 36 which came into force on 5 April 2015.

The Regulations revoke five previous regulations consolidating, modernising and, where practicable, simplifying the legislative arrangements to reduce the regulatory burden on those involved in the sectors without any decrease in protection. The link between health and safety law in the explosives sector and the Explosives Act 1875 is being broken and the underpinning legislation for the Explosives Regulations 2014 is the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

There are 15 parts to the Regulations which provide for the regulation of the manufacture, storage and acquisition of explosives by means of a series of defined duties, the granting of approvals and a system of licensing.

Breaches of The Explosives Regulations 2014 constitute offences contrary to section 33 of The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The HSE usually has primacy in prosecutions under the 1974 Act.

The Explosives Regulations 2014 have been amended by The Explosives Regulations 2014 (Amendment) Regulations 2016 which came into force on 20 April 2016. The Amendment is made solely under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 (the ECA). The main changes relate to a strengthening of the legal obligations on manufacturers, distributors and importers involved in placing civil explosives on the single market.

Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015

The Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015 came into force on 17 August 2015 and implement two EU Directives on the harmonisation of the laws of member States relating to the making available on the market of pyrotechnic articles and setting up a system for the traceability of pyrotechnic articles therefore improving safety.

The Regulations are made solely under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 (the ECA) and is part of the EU's New Legislative Framework (NLF) approach to the pyrotechnics sector. The 2015 Regulations revoke the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2010.

Policing and Crime Act 2017

Section 134 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 came into force on 3 April 2017. This section makes it an offence to possess a pyrotechnic article (for example, a firework, flare or smoke bomb) at a qualifying musical event.

The Policing and Crime Act 2017 (Possession of Pyrotechnic Articles at Musical Events) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/306) defines a qualifying musical event as an event that is provided to any extent for members of the public, or a section of the public, and takes place on premises in respect of which a premises license under the Licensing Act 2003 has been granted and the licence authorises the premises to be used for the provision of regulated entertainment (as defined by the Licensing Act 2003) in the form of a performance of live music.

The maximum penalty for the offence is three months' imprisonment, a level 3 fine (currently £1,000), or both.

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Bomb Hoaxes

While bomb hoaxes may be considered to be Wasting Police Time (section 5(2) Criminal Law Act 1967) or Improper use of Public Electronic Communications Network (section 127 Communications Act 2003), section 51 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 will usually be the appropriate legislation to use to prosecute bomb hoaxes. More information is available in the Wasting Police Time and Communications Offences legal guidance.

Key cases show that imprisonment is likely for offences under section 51. In the case of Brown v HM Advocate 1992 S.C.C.R. 783 it was decided that two years' imprisonment was not excessive and in the case of R v Bosworth [1998] 1 Cr. App. R. (S.) 356 the offender was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment. The case of R v Cook [2006] EWCA Crim 780 shows that, while a custodial sentence was deemed appropriate, early guilty pleas and mitigating factors should be taken into account when sentencing these cases.

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Annex A: Table for Offences and Sanctions

Offence

Cause an explosion likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property.

Additional information

Whether or not such injury has actually been caused.

Specified violent offence within Schedule 15 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Relevant charging leglisation

Section 2 of the Explosives Substances Act (ESA) 1883.

Seek advice from SCCTD - if the explosion is believed terrorist in nature.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

Yes - Attorney General's.

Maximum sentence

Imprisonment for life.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

Defines 'explosive substance' which also includes a shot gun - R v Downey and a part of a vessel which itself is filled with an explosive substance in R v Charles.

Offence

Do any act with intent to cause, or conspiring to cause, an explosion likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property.

Additional information

Specified violent offence within Schedule 15 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Relevant charging leglisation

Section 3(1) a of the ESA 1883.

Seek advice from SCCTD - if the explosion is believed terrorist in nature.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

Yes - Attorney General's.

Maximum sentence

Imprisonment for life.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

No information.

Offence

Makes, possesses or controls an explosive substance with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property.

Additional information

Specified violent offence within Schedule 15 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Relevant charging leglisation

Section 3(1) b of the ESA 1883.

Seek advice from SCCTD - if the explosion is believed terrorist in nature.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

Yes - Attorney General's.

Maximum sentence

Imprisonment for life.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

A petrol bomb is an explosive substance producing a pyrotechnic effect within the Explosives Act 1875.

R v Bouch.

Offence

Makes, knowingly has in control or possession an explosive in suspicious circumstances.

Additional information

Proof lies with the defendant to show he has the objects for lawful purpose.

Specified violent offence within Schedule 15 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Relevant charging leglisation

Section 4 (1) of the ESA 1883.

Seek advice from SCCTD - if the explosion is believed terrorist in nature.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

Yes - Attorney General's.

Maximum sentence

Imprisonment for life and explosive substance forfeited.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

Should be construed in light of the Explosives Act 1875 definition of 'explosive'.

R v Wheatley.

Offence

Bomb making documents and/or recipes for the production of explosives (including pyrotechnics- low explosives).

Additional information

Possession for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.

Relevant charging leglisation

Section 57 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

Yes - Director of Public Prosecutions' consent required.

If the offence has been committed for a purpose wholly or partly connected with the affairs of another country permission of the Attorney General for the Director of Public Prosecutions to give consent is required.

Maximum sentence

Imprisonment for 15 years, a fine, or both.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

No informaiton.

Offence

Bomb making documents and/or recipes for the production of explosives (including pyrotechnics- low explosives).

Additional information

Possess/Collect Information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Relevant charging leglisation

Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

Yes - Director of Public Prosecutions' consent required.

If the offence has been committed for a purpose wholly or partly connected with the affairs of another country permission of the Attorney General for the Director of Public Prosecutions to give consent is required.

Maximum sentence

Imprisonment for 15 years, a fine, or both.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

No information.

Offence

Cause grievous bodily harm by the unlawful and malicious explosion of gunpowder or other explosive substance.

Additional information

Specified violent offences within Schedule 15 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Relevant charging leglisation

Section 28 of the Offences Against the Person Act (OAPA) 1861.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

No.

Maximum sentence

Imprisonment for life.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

No information.

Offence

Cause gunpowder or some other explosive substance to explode with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Additional information

It is not necessary for any bodily injury to have been caused; it is the intention to do so.

Specified violent offences within Schedule 15 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Relevant charging leglisation

Section 29 of the OAPA 1861.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

No.

Maximum sentence

Imprisonment for life.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

A petrol bomb was an explosive substance within s.29 of the OAPA.

R v Howard.

Offence

Placing explosives near buildings or ships with intent to do bodily injury.

Additional information

Specified violent offences within Schedule 15 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Relevant charging leglisation

Section 30 of the OAPA 1861.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

No.

Maximum sentence

Imprisonment for 14 years.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

No information.

Offence

Make or have an explosive substance with intent to commit any felony against the Act.

Additional information

No additional information

Relevant charging leglisation

Section 64 of the OAPA 1861.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

No.

Maximum sentence

Imprisonment for 2 years.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

No information.

Offence

Causing or intending to cause damage or destroying property.

Additional information

If damage or destruction are caused by fire than this should be charged as arson.

Relevant charging leglisation

Section 1(1) and (2) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 (and (3) for arson).

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

No

Maximum sentence

Imprisonment for life.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

No information

Offence

Place or post any article with the intention of inducing someone to believe that it is likely to ignite or explode and cause injury or damage property.

Additional information

Bomb hoaxes.

Relevant charging leglisation

Criminal Law Act 1977 Section 51 (1).

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

No.

Maximum sentence

7 years.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

No information.

Offence

Communicate false information with the intention of inducing someone to believe that a bomb or other thing liable to explode or ignite is present in any place or location.

Additional information

Bomb hoaxes.

Relevant charging leglisation

Criminal Law Act 1977 Section 51 (2).

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

No.

Maximum sentence

7 years.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

No information.

Offence

Possession, of listed explosives precursors without a licence - after 3 March 2016.

Additional information

No additional information.

Relevant charging leglisation

Section 3(1) of the Poisons Act 1972, as amended by the Deregulation Act 2015, Schedule 21 in relation to poisons and explosives precursors.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

No.

Maximum sentence

2 years.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

Section 2(3) defines 'regulated explosives precursor'.

Offence

Selling of listed explosives precursors to a person who does not hold a licence.

Additional information

No additional information.

Relevant charging leglisation

Section 3A of the Poisons Act 1972, as amended by the Deregulation Act 2015, Schedule 21 in relation to poisons and explosives precursors.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

No.

Maximum sentence

2 years.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

Section 2(3) defines 'regulated explosives precursor'.

Offence

Failing to report a suspicious transaction, loss or theft of a regulated or reportable precursor.

Additional information

No additional information.

Relevant charging leglisation

Section 3C of the Poisons Act 1972, as amended by the Deregulation Act 2015, Schedule 21 in relation to poisons and explosives precursors.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

No.

Maximum sentence

3 months and/or a fine.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

Section 2(4) defines 'regulated explosives precursor'.

Offence

Possession of an F2, F3 or F4 firework by a person under 18 in a public place.

Additional information

This does not include sparklers, toy caps, throw-downs.

Relevant charging leglisation

Fireworks Regulations 2004 (SI 1836: 2004), Regulation 4.

Fireworks Act 2003.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

No

Maximum sentence

6 months' imprisonment, £5000 fine or both. £90 on the spot fine.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

SI 1836: 2004 defines 'fireworks' and 'adult fireworks'.

Offence

Any person to be in possession of category 4 fireworks.

Additional information

There are exemptions for professional use.

Relevant charging leglisation

Fireworks Regulations 2004 (SI 1836: 2004), Regulation 5.

Fireworks Act 2003.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

No.

Maximum sentence

6 months' imprisonment, £5000 fine or both. £90 on the spot fine.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

SI 1836: 2004 defines 'fireworks' and 'adult fireworks'.

Offence

Using a firework at night other than during a permitted fireworks night.

Additional information

11pm - 7am most of the year - exceptions are New Year, Chinese New Year, Diwali and Bonfire Night.

Relevant charging leglisation

Fireworks Regulations 2004 (SI 1836: 2004), Regulation 7.

Fireworks Act 2003.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

No.

Maximum sentence

6 months' imprisonment, £5000 fine or both. £90 on the spot fine.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

SI 1836: 2004 defines 'fireworks' and 'adult fireworks'.

Offence

Throwing or discharging a firework in a public place.

Additional information

No additional information.

Relevant charging leglisation

Explosives Act 1875, section 80.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

No.

Maximum sentence

Fine not exceeding the statutory maximum.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

Defines 'explosive'.
The term 'gunpowder' applies to all explosives covered by the Act.

Offence

Acquiring /keeping explosives without a valid certificate.

Additional information

Licensee must adhere to conditions of that certificate (quantities, types etc.). Some explosives are exempt.

Relevant charging leglisation

Explosives Regulations 2014, Regulation 5 (1)and (2).
Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

Yes - Director of Public Prosecutions' consent required.

Maximum sentence

Breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 are offences under section 33. Information on sanctions is available on the HSE website.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

Defines 'explosive', 'explosive substance' and 'fireworks'.

Offence

Manufacturing more than 100g of explosives without a licence.

Additional information

Explosives can be manufactured for laboratory analysis, testing demonstration and experimentation but not for practical use or supply.

Relevant charging leglisation

Explosives Regulations 2014, Regulation 6 (1) and (2).

Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

Yes - Director of Public Prosecutions' consent required.

Maximum sentence

Breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 are offences under section 33. Information on sanctions is available on the HSE website.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

Defines 'explosive', 'explosive substance' and 'fireworks'.

Offence

Accidents in the work place involving explosives.

Additional information

These are usually investigated by the HSE.

Relevant charging leglisation

Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

Yes - Director of Public Prosecutions' consent required.

Maximum sentence

Breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 are offences under section 33. Information on sanctions is available on the HSE website.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

No information.

Offence

Possession of pyrotechnic articles at musical events.

Additional information

Pyrotechnic articles can a firework, flare or smoke bomb.

Relevant charging leglisation

Policing and Crime Act 2017, section 134.

Attorney General's / Director of Public Prosecution's permission required?

No.

Maximum sentence

The maximum penalty for the offence is three months' imprisonment, a level 3 fine (currently £1,000), or both.

Information on Defintions (for full information see Explosives legal guidance)

The Policing and Crime Act 2017 (Possession of Pyrotechnic Articles at Musical Events) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/306) defines a qualifying musical event.

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