'An utterly lethal weapon': How Leeds jurors made landmark legal ruling on the deadly Airbow

A jury at Leeds Crown Court heard how a dangerous offender was able to purchase the deadly Airbow weapon online for £1,400.

Friday, 5th November 2021, 11:45 am

Outlining the case against Jaspal Marwaha, prosecutor Stephen Wood QC told the jury how officers went to his home in Alwoodley, Leeds.

Marwaha was present, and he allowed the officers into the property.

He cooperated with the officers and showed them the Airbow, which was in a pull-out drawer under his bed.

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Leeds Crown Court

It was contained in a case with the manufacturer’s name ‘Benjamin’ on it.

The Airbow was equipped with a telescopic sight.

Three arrows were also recovered from the property.

The defendant told the police that he had purchased the Airbow for £1,400. He said that he "just liked having it" and that he had not bought it with any specific intent.

Jaspal Marwaha was found guilty of of possessing a firearm without a certificate after trial over his possession of the Airbow.

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The police were able to ascertain that the Airbow had been purchased on July 25, 2018, from a retailer called Outdoorhobbies Ltd, based in Harrogate.

An invoice records that the purchase price was £1,464.96 and this included the Airbow, a foot pump, six arrows and a target

Mr Wood told the jury: "There will be no dispute in this case that this defendant had possession of this weapon.

Airbow arrows

"The issue for you will be whether you are sure that the weapon in question was a firearm within the meaning of the Firearms Act 1968."

Jurors were shown the weapon and video footage of an arrow piercing a police ballistic vest.

Mr Wood said the Airbow resembles a pre-charged pneumatic air rifle.

But, the barrister explained, instead of a conventional barrel from the inside of which a projectile is propelled, the Airbow has a hollow tube which the instruction manual refers to as an ‘arrow rest/barrel’.

The arrows for use with the Airbow have hollow cavities and the shaft of the arrow fits over the ‘arrow rest/barrel’.

The arrow is propelled by compressed air contained within an internal air reservoir.

The overall length of the Airbow is 33.7 inches and the ‘arrow rest/barrel’ is 25.3 inches.

Arrows were examined by an expert in firearms and ballistics and were found to be undamaged carbon arrows.

Each has three plastic vanes and hollow cavities.

The tips of the arrows are sharp and at either side of the tip are two blades which flip open on firing.

On the Airbow itself, there is a safety switch to prevent accidental firing.

The Airbow can only fire one arrow at a time.

The expert test-fired the Airbow with an arrow.

In order to evaluate the Airbow’s capacity, the expert undertook further tests and inserted ball-bearings inside the ‘air rest/barrel’.

Three ball-bearings were fired using the compressed air in the Airbow.

The expert found that the Airbow was capable of discharging these ball-bearings with kinetic energies of about 20.33 to 21.71 ft/lbs.

By way of comparison, the limit for items classified as ‘specially dangerous air weapons’ is a maximum of 12 ft/lb.

Mr Wood said: "In practical terms, this means the Airbow, if misused in this way, is potentially fatal.

"Obviously you may think, the Airbow is a highly dangerous weapon and has the capacity to be lethal even if used ‘properly’.

"The manufacturer’s manual claims that the Airbow is designed for ‘large game hunting'.

"Hunting with it in the United Kingdom would not be lawful."

Mr Wood told the jurors that for the weapon to fall within the ambit of the Firearms Act 1968, and thus require certification under section 1, they would need to determine on the evidence whether the Airbow falls within the definition of a firearm.

He added: "We submit that in these circumstances a firearm means a ‘lethal barrelled weapon’.

"Whether it is a lethal barrelled weapon is a matter of fact for you to determine."