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Offences involving explosives could be prosecuted under a number of pieces of legislation. Expert evidence is always required in these cases to ascertain whether the substance is an explosive and if so, what type.
Prosecution must prove that there was an explosion, as opposed to say combustion and expert evidence is also required on this point.
Offences Against the Person Act 1861
Section 28 makes it an offence to cause grievous bodily harm to a person by the unlawful explosion of gun powder or other explosive substance.
This offence can only be heard in the crown court and the maximum sentence is one of life imprisonment.
Section 29 makes it an offence to cause an explosion with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
This offence can also only be heard in the crown court and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Section 30 makes it an offence to place explosives near to buildings or ships with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
This offence can only be heard in the crown court and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment. Also, all of the above offences are capable of triggering an extended sentence if the court is of the opinion that the offender poses “… a significant risk to members of the public of serious harm occasioned by the commission by him of further specified offences”.
Explosives Act 1875
Under this Act it is an offence to:
• Fail to take all reasonable precautions to prevent access to explosives (Section 23).
• To sell gun powder on the highway or in a public place (Section 30).
• To sell gun powder to children appearing to be under the age of 16 years (Section 31).
• To throw fireworks on the highway or in a public place (Section 80).
Whilst the Act refers to “gun powder” the term includes a number of other explosive substances.
All offences carry a maximum penalty of a fine.
Explosive Substances Act 1883
Section 2 makes it an offence to cause an explosion likely to endanger life or cause serious damage to property. This offence is wider than the one created by the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 as it extends to damage to property and it is also easier to prove as the Crown do not have to prove that the person intended or was reckless, they only have to prove that the act was likely to endanger life or cause serious damage to property.
The case can only be heard in the crown court and the maximum sentence is one of life imprisonment.
Under Section 3 it is an offence to do any act with an intent to cause an explosion by means of an explosive substance likely to endanger life. It is also an offence to conspire to cause an explosion likely to endanger life or to make, possess or control an explosive substance with intent to cause an explosion likely to endanger life.
All of the above offences can only be heard in the crown court and carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. These are also deemed to be violent offences capable of triggering an extended sentence if the offender is deemed to be dangerous.
Under Section 4 of the Act it is an offence to make or possess explosives in suspicious circumstances and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment.
Criminal Damage Act 1971
Under Section 1 of the Act an offence is committed where property belonging to another is damaged or destroyed without reasonable excuse. Although it is unusual for an offence involving explosions to be charged as criminal damage, if the explosion is minor and there was no intent to injure anyone or cause serious damage to property, then an offence of criminal damage could be charged.
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
Offences under this Act relate to breaches of regulations relating to health and safety and the manufacture, storage and sale of explosives.
Fireworks Act 2003
Regulations made under this Act make it an offence to:
• Be in possession of a firework in a public place by a person under the age of 18 years.
• Use certain fireworks at night other than during a permitted fireworks night display.
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