Forensic testing of Airguns.

Discussion in 'General Airgun Chat' started by raygun, Jan 21, 2015.

  1. raygun

    raygun Non member

    The "Traditional" understanding was that your rifle would be tested with a light, medium and heavy pellet. Now this still may be true but other factors have reared their head.

    The Forensic Science Service (who performed the tests) is now defunct and testing is farmed out to independent forensic test labs.
    These labs have a requirement to follow their own procedures, which can be anything they wish. The "Forensic Science Regulator" will only be interested in them following their own procedure (whatever that is). If their procedure says that they can adjust the rifle in any way they wish to ensure it goes over power then that is admissible. A private forensic lab has a financial interest in delivering a solution to ensure repeat business so we have to be beware of that fact.

    BASC advise that if there is no obvious method of adjustment then nothing can be altered. I would love to believe that but other evidence says that you cannot rely on that advice.

    There is no standard test procedure and as long as a test house follows it's own procedure then that is acceptable.

    The law say's that your air rifle must not be CAPABLE of more than 12FPE.

    The offence is one of strict liability and all that has to be proved is the fact your rifle is capable of shooting at more than 12FPE. Your only defence is to prove the testing was incorrect. Intent does not have to be proved.

    I'm not saying that all of us are in danger of being prosecuted but if you are the one, then it is important.

    ATB
    Ray.
     
  2. Yorkshiretea

    Yorkshiretea B Grade Bandit

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    Don't think that's true nor would it stand up either Ray, what evidence have you got to back up such a sweeping statement?

    What evidence?
     
  3. raygun

    raygun Non member

    Any business has an interest in obtaining future business. If a business doesn't deliver the "goods" then repeat business is going to be difficult to obtain. Hardly "Rocket science".
    How do you get repeat business ? The Key Forensic tester was quite open in Court about this saying it was his job to ensure the rifle shot over power.

    There has been one Court case where the BASC advise was totally incorrect. Let alone any obvious area's of immediate adjustability the rifle was stripped down to component parts, one of those part removed and the rifle tested without that part. Hardly the following of the BASC advise.
    A conviction was obtained.

    ATB
    Ray.
     
  4. rich

    rich Active Member

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    We have to acknowledge, for all our nationalistic pride in things British, our legal system isn't designed to arrive at the truth; it's an adversarial system where one side has to beat the other side, convincing juries and magistrates and judges for that matter of the veracity of their claims.

    CPS employs an expert witness in the form of a forensic testing lab not to find out the truth but to win the case they are paying to prosecute. Why should they continue to patronise a firm that persistently doesn't deliver the goods.

    Of course they have a vested interest. They are employed by one side.

    Now I'm no lover of all things French but at least you have to hand it to them, their magistrates "investigate"; in other words, they seek to find the truth.
     
  5. verminator

    verminator New Member

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    If I recall, in that specific case, there were many guns involved. The defendant in question was not convicted for the rifle taken apart by the labs, but for a rifle that was work in progress (conversion from .177 to .22). Also for .22 LR ammo found after letting their fire-arms license lapse.

    That said, the testing may well have some influence on the Judge/Jury.
     
  6. rich

    rich Active Member

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    Here is an analogy.

    Ray takes his car in for MOT. It fails, on emissions.

    Why has it failed, he asks. Well, when we took off the cat converter and the diesel particulate filter, the emissions went sky high.

    But, Ray says, the car is supposed to have those components fitted, you can't just remove them to get a fail.

    Oh yes we can, says the MOT station. So long as we follow our own procedures - and they give us just this power - we are within the law.

    Ray is unhappy about this and takes it to court. The judge explains to the jury, it may not be just, it certainly isn't justice, but it is the law, and my job is to see the law upheld. I direct you to find Ray guilty. And I order his car to be crushed, with no compensation.

    Fortunately this is all conjecture and make believe, because MOTs are carried out to a national standard.
     
  7. raygun

    raygun Non member

    The rifle in question was owned by "Lionel" of the BBS. He was a "Hostile witness" in the case. He said the rifle was shooting at well less than the 12FPE, which was proved by the initial testing. Later testing with the removal of parts let the rifle shoot from around 3 to 30 FPE. Correct on the ammunition though.

    You may be getting mixed up with a case from Ripley (Yorkshire) where rifles that were in pieces were reassembled and tested over power. Again a conviction was obtained.

    In both cases an appeal was not considered due to the sentences passed. On appeal the sentences could have been increased.

    ATB
    Ray.
     
  8. rich

    rich Active Member

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    Wasn't one of the rifles a Rapid 7 and about 4 or 5 consecutive power readings were identical to two places of decimals, I mean something like 30.48 fpe? Now, that would be statistically highly improbable. Rapids may be good guns but that takes some believing, not only the doctored rifle so consistent with half its bits removed, the tester managed to select four or five pellets out of a tin, with identical weights. With luck like that, I'll happily give the bloke my lottery stake money.
     
  9. Brian.Samson

    Brian.Samson Allowed in Sales Staff Member

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    How would you go about defining a standard test procedure? - would it be something the HO could insist on or would it require an amendment to the Firearms Act (to define 'capable')

    What I mean is.. ok, so we need a standard test procedure. What's the first step to getting one?
     
  10. rich

    rich Active Member

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    If you open the door to allow the lab to do any mods at all, then it will be impossible to define a limit to those mods. Ergo, no mods to the rifle as seized. That would be my top line.

    Define the ammunition and that could be a matter of debate to get agreement.

    Define the test procedure, including specified ambient conditions, including temperature, humidity etc.

    Define the testing equipment and specify the traceable trail for calibration etc, and apply calibration corrections.

    Allow a tolerance for experimental error.

    Standardise the format of the output, to be factual and not opinion.

    There's a start. ;)
     
  11. verminator

    verminator New Member

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    Having read the commentary on the case again, you are right. The Phoenix was ruined by the lab, but the jury failed to grasp what happened. He was convicted for the rapid too, which was in the process of being converted from .177 to .22, which is why it was over power. And the .22 LR ammo, of course.
     
  12. Brian.Samson

    Brian.Samson Allowed in Sales Staff Member

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    Ah no.. all good suggestions Rich. That's not what I meant though.

    I mean - how do you set the wheels in motion?
     
  13. rich

    rich Active Member

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    That was your second question, Brian. Tougher, that one.:)

    Edit: I mean, we don't seem to have the trade on our side; by and large, they are happy with the way things are.

    Edit 2: I wrote to the Home Office about this and also engaged my local MP at the time of the cases mentioned above; all I got back was a fatuous reply that it was the responsibility of the rifle owner to make sure that the kit complied with the law. The concept of elastic goal posts placed in shifting sand was ignored, or not understood.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2015
  14. raygun

    raygun Non member

    Hi Brian,

    I think there is a need for a standard test, both for the manufacturer to set to and for us to check we are compliant with the law. That it would be used for prosecutions goes without saying.

    There is not only a great reluctance from AMTA, in fact they've got their heads buried that far in the sand they're talking to Emu's.

    There also appears to be reluctance from shooting organisations although I don't know why. The shooting organisations are the only route I can think of where we might make progress.

    From a manufacturers point of view how can they possibly set up the power of a rifle when they don't know how it would be tested. They should be the first in the queue protesting.

    I don't think the "nuts and bolts" of a standard test are beyond the wit of man. BSI administer far more complicated testing regimes without problem.

    ATB
    Ray.
     
  15. rich

    rich Active Member

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    I found the letter I received some years ago. I had asked how my rifle would be tested if it were to be seized and checked, as I was concerned that a recent legal case had apparently created a precedent that allowed the testing lab to interfere substantially with the evidence.

    The enquiry was routed through my MP, and this is an extract of the reply he received:

    quote

    It will be for the courts to decide whether the testing method used in any particular case is reasonable. If (rich) remains unsure about the legal status of any air weapon he holds he should seek expert technical and legal advice. He will wish to know that the Airgun Manufacturers and Traders Association, working with the Forensic Science Service, have a standardised procedure for testing air weapons to ensure they comply with the law.

    unquote

    Point missed completely. I wasn't unsure about the legal status of my rifle. Notice they insist on using the term "air weapon".

    If AMTA have this standardised procedure that is apparently endorsed by the Home Office, maybe the shooting fraternity might make use of it, in the interests of the sport.

    Endorsed might be too strong a term; let's just say the HO are sufficiently impressed by it that they offer the knowledge of its existence as a level of comfort to me.

    Possibly the author of this letter believed at the time that all rifles produced by AMTA members were tested for compliance.
     
  16. Conor

    Conor Never been banned from sales Staff Member

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    Simple guys, demand that all airgund be put on license and you also want a European firearms pass, just to keep you air "weapon" legal incase it ever was "capable" of doing more power than it was designed and manufactered to do by the companies. insist that the trade take lead role in the process of obtaining serial numbers from manufactures for each "weapon" sold in the mainland.

    That should ruffle their feathers
     
  17. rich

    rich Active Member

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    Sadly that means you can only use the rifle on cleared land. I can't imagine 4 million open tickets ever being issued.

    A few years back when I wanted to do the FT Worlds in Poland I tried hard to get a EFP and even asked if my EV2 could be put on ticket (how prescient was that!!) at sub 12 fpe to enable me to have a EFP. Answer, under 12 is not specially dangerous (on this side of the Irish Sea) and you can't have it on ticket as the police and HO don't have the capacity to issue all those tickets.

    Actually, there was only going to be about 50 or so Brits going to Poland so it wasn't a huge drain on resources. Those who flew wouldn't want the EFP anyway, it was just the intending overlanders.
     
  18. Yorkshiretea

    Yorkshiretea B Grade Bandit

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    So what you're actually suggesting here is corruption. You actually think that people who've studied for 12+ years and are peer tested would base their reputations and the evidence on "repeat business"?
     
  19. raygun

    raygun Non member

    Where do you think the Police will go.

    To the Lab that gets them the results, or the one that doesn't.

    There is no mention of corruption. A test lab can use any test method it wishes. If one labs gets "better" results from it's testing procedure than another then I'm sure it will get the repeat business. Could also work on a cost basis as well.

    As the Key Forensic tester said in Court, "It's my job to ensure the rifle shoots above the limit". I'll let you decide whether that's corruption or not.

    ATB
    Ray.
     
  20. verminator

    verminator New Member

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    One would have though it be illegal for anyone to tamper with the evidence. Trial by jury seems a frightening prospect.

    Regarding a standard test, I don't think there is one that will ensure rifles won't go over the limit in all circumstances. For a long time, I had observed that heavier pellets produce more power in my PCP. Then I discovered JSB Express (.22), which blew that theory out of the water. Almost any CO2 gun :- test it at 38 degrees C and see what happens. As far as the law is concerned, there is no need for elaboration, the limit is simple and clear.

    Personally, I would like to see some margin for error. A common analogy is the driving speed limit; a 10% margin of error is permitted and the fine is proportional to the speed over the limit.

    With the right tools, any air weapon can be made to go over 12FPE. I think the anti-tamper at least proves to the jury that the owner did not modify the gun and therefore did not intend it to be over powered. Still guilty, but it is likely to achieve more lenient sentencing. Perhaps someone should produce anti-tamper kits.
     

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