'A landmark conviction': Leeds jury makes legal ruling after deadly Airbow weapon capable of piercing police body armour was found under bed of dangerous offender
A deadly air weapon capable of firing arrows with the ability to pierce police body armour has been freely available to buy on the internet.
The weapon was found under a bed at the home of a Leeds man who has a previous conviction for shooting his dad with a crossbow.
Jurors in Leeds heard of the shocking capabilities of the "utterly lethal" Airbow during a "landmark" trial as police and prosecutors sought to get the legal status of the weapon changed.
The judge in the case also said he was writing to Home Secretary Priti Patel over his concerns about the weapon and the potential dangers it poses to public safety.
The concerns were raised following the trial of 26-year-old Leeds man Jaspal Marwaha.
Marwaha has a previous conviction for wounding his father with a crossbow in 2013.In November 2018 Marwaha revealed to his mental health worker that he had bought the Airbow.
He also disclosed that he had bought arrows for the weapon and had made the purchases on the internet.
Marwaha told his counsellor that he had bought them "for self-protection and as a last resort."
Police were informed and officers went to his home on Oakdene, Alwoodley, where Marwaha told them the weapon was under his bed.
Stephen Wood QC, prosecuting, said the Airbow was equipped with a telescopic sight.
Six arrows for the weapon were recovered from Marwaha's home.
Investigations revealed that the defendant had purchased the weapon from a company in Harrogate in July 2018.
During Marwaha's trial, Andre Horne, a firearms expert at the Royal Armouries, explained to jurors the weapon was new on the market and had been imported from the USA.
He said that during his career he had only seen three such weapons.
Mr Horne gave jurors an explanation of how the weapon worked.
The court was also shown "graphic footage" of an arrow being fired at a police ballistic vest and penetrating the body armour.
Mr Wood told the court: "In the wrong hands this is an utterly lethal weapon."
Jurors at Marwaha's trial had to decide if the Airbow was a "barrelled weapon" within the meaning of the Firearms Act 1968.
Marwaha was found guilty of possessing a firearm without a certificate.
Sentencing was adjourned after the trial in July this year so Marwaha could undergo further psychiatric assessment.
Marwaha has been diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
He is currently detained at Newton Lodge Secure Hospital, in Wakefield, under the Mental Health Act.
At the sentencing hearing this week, psychiatrist Dr Sachin Jacobs told the court that the defendant's condition requires ongoing treatment with antipsychotic medication.
He suffers from auditory and visual hallucinations.
Mr Jacobs said Marwaha had been violent towards doctors as an inpatient.
He has also made threats against his parents and the criminal justice system.
His most recent use of an imitation firearm was to put fear into his mother.
The doctor said the defendant's condition was of a nature and degree which requires further detention.
He said: "That remains necessary for his health and safety and the safety of others.
"There is a high risk of future harm to the public and, in particular, his parents.
"This obsession around weapons is long-standing and unlikely to shift."
Judge Neil Clark ordered that Marwaha be detained under the Mental Health Act for an indefinite period of time.
Judge Clark said he had written to the Home Secretary expressing his concerns about the Airbow.
He said: "It is a highly unusual weapon but they are becoming more common and marketed more freely by more than one manufacturer.
"They are marketed as something that can be bought without a (firearms) certificate.
"The jury found this was not the case."
A deprivation order was made so the Airbow can be kept by the Royal Armouries.
After the case, Julian Briggs, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “This is a landmark conviction.
"It was the prosecution case that an Airbow is a barrelled weapon fitting the definition of a Section 1 firearm, and this is the first time that this legal point has been tested before a jury in a court in West Yorkshire.”
Detective Inspector Scott Hartley, of Leeds District Intelligence Unit, said: “We had overriding public safety concerns when officers were made aware of the defendant’s ownership of this weapon.
"It was subsequently seized, and a detailed investigation was carried out by our Firearms Field Intelligence Officers, who worked closely with forensic firearms specialists, leading to this successful conviction at court.
“This case has clear implications for the legal status of Airbows, and anyone who owns or is thinking of buying such a weapon will need to closely monitor any changes to the legislation that result from it.
“West Yorkshire Police is committed to keeping our communities safe and we hope the positive outcome of this case will serve to reassure people.”