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A guide to drone law in the UK

Drones and the law

This article examines drones and the legal framework which governs their usage. It focuses on drones which are available to the public and looks at:

  • Potential risks of using a drone
  • The relevant law governing drone usage
  • One’s responsibilities as a drone owner
  • Further caveats for particular types of drone use

What are drones?

The term ‘drone’ refers to any object that can be flown without a human pilot. Drones can range from armed technologies used in military operations to smaller gadgets that can be purchased by members of the public.

These drone models can be controlled remotely and may also be attached to a camera which provides a live-feed to the controller. They can be used educational, professional and leisure purposes and a variety of models are available which vary in size, speed, range and price.

When are drones a problem?

Drones become a problem when they interfere with other objects using the same airspace. They can present a problem for both military and civilian aircraft as despite their relatively small size a collision could have disastrous consequences. Such incidents are more likely to happen when drones are flown too high or too close to areas where aircraft are taking off and landing frequently.

Drone

 

Drone prosecution UK

If you have bought a drone for personal use, then you have some responsibilities relating to your use of that drone. Breaching these duties can result in prosecution.

It is advisable to consult the Civilian Aviation Authority Air Navigation Order 2016, specifically Articles 94, 95 and 241 for guidance. You can download the ‘Drone Code’ from the website www.dronesafe.uk.

You must understand your essential duties as a drone owner, many of which are common sense:

  • Know how to fly your drone safely and do so within the law
  • Understand that the operator of the drone is legally responsible for every flight
  • Keep your drone in sight at all times – ideally you should keep the drone below 400ft
  • Don’t fly your drone over congested areas
  • Never fly a drone within 50 metres of a person, vehicle or building not under your control
  • Ensure any images you obtain using a drone do not break privacy laws
  • Avoid collisions – you should never fly a drone near an airport or close to aircraft

It is a criminal offence to endanger the safety of an aircraft in flight. If you break the rules, you could threaten life and also face prosecution, which in some cases may result in imprisonment or a substantial fine.

Commercial drone licence

If you want to use a drone for commercial purposes – for example as an estate agent to take aerial video of properties for sale –  then you must seek permission from the Civilian Aviation Authority prior to doing so.

It is also expected that you will attend an accredited course which will test your knowledge of and competence with drones.

What are military drones?

Any drone use completed for the Ministry of Defence is regulated by the Military Aviation Authority. Tasks such as surveys at height, photography and multimedia activities are covered by these provisions and one should refer to Regulatory Articles 1600, 2320 and 2321 for specific requirements.

Drones can be fun and useful but come with their fair share of responsibilities. If you follow the principles highlighted above, you will be much less likely to fall foul of the rules and regulations governing this exciting new technology.

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Liar: Defending Cases of Alleged Sexual Assault

Liar, ITV’s new 6-part drama, is gripping the nation, with viewers already reaching their own conclusions as to whether Laura – played by the actress Joanne Froggatt who is better known for her role as Anna Bates in Downton Abbey – is telling the truth when she accuses surgeon Andrew of raping her.

For most of us, this is highly watchable drama as we switch between whom we believe, our perceptions changed over time by the sophisticated script and plot devices.

It is no surprise that some people have formed an opinion on who they believe already, as recent research demonstrated that half of the jurors comprising a trial jury might reach a guilty verdict before even going to deliberate with other jurors.

We know that people are, on occasion, willing to change their minds, just as you might when the plot unfolds. It is vital therefore that a strong case is set out from the start, laying a solid foundation for a successful defence.

Sexual Offences

For our clients and their families, facing an accusation of rape or other sexual crime can be a horrendous experience. So, what is our role and how do we defend such cases?

A reactive and proactive role

We always start with a reactive approach. The complainant states they were drunk, whilst our client states they were in fact sober. They entered the bedroom uninvited says one person, we were invited in, says our client and so on.

We can build the start of a defence with this important work, but we do not have the benefit of the incident in question playing before us on a TV screen, with the truth revealed at the end.

Instead, we have the contrasting versions of the event in question and it might feel as if it is simply one word against another. This is often the case, unless you seek further evidence.

A proactive approach to case preparation is what makes a difference. At Wheldon Law, we always ensure that:

  • All relevant witnesses are traced
  • Any CCTV evidence is secured
  • All forensic evidence is analysed
  • Background checks are completed
  • Details of false allegations are pursued

and even, as already alluded to in Liar, any psychiatric issues are explored.

We also understand the personal toll legal proceedings may take on you and your family and offer a compassionate and reassuring voice at a time when the future may at times appear very dark.

Our services

Wheldon Law Solicitors has decades of experience in defending accusations of sexual assault.

Before entrusting your case to anyone else, come and meet us, get a feel for our work ethic and ensure you are confident that you are receiving the best defence possible.

You only get one chance to get this right, so the alternative is unthinkable.

We offer private client services at affordable rates and legal aid may be available.

If you are arrested for, or charged with, any offence, call us on 01442 242999 or email us at enquiries@wheldonlaw.co.uk.

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What is a taser torch and what is the penalty for bringing one into the UK?

Heading back from holiday this summer, you may have brought a souvenir or two back in your luggage. While there’s no problem bring an ornament or a piece of jewellery home to remind you of your trip, you should be aware that, with some souvenirs you run the risk of unwittingly committing a criminal offence by bringing them into the country.

What is a taser torch and what is the penalty for bringing one into the UK

Which items are banned?

Items such as novelty torches with a taser function are not permitted to be brought into the UK. Often, people have no idea of this additional function, simply purchasing the novelty torch on holiday and bringing it home in their luggage, only to be told upon arrival at the airport that they are committing a criminal offence.

What is the punishment for possession of a taser in the UK?

UK law specifies that possession of a non-lethal taser is a criminal offence and, should the taser be disguised as another object such as a torch, the offence carries a minimum term of imprisonment of 5 years.

Whilst people are often unaware they are breaking the law by bringing a taser torch into the UK and claim they ‘did not know it was illegal’, this is not a valid defence. Merely possessing such an item is classified as an offence of strict liability, which means that it does not matter that you did not deliberately do anything wrong.

As the law presently stands, a person convicted of possession of a disguised firearm must plead exceptional circumstances to attempt to be punished with anything less than a five year sentence.  Exceptional circumstance arguments are very difficult to win and the appeal courts have stated that only truly exceptional cases should result in anything less than a term of five years imprisonment.

What’s the difference between stun guns and tasers?

Tasers and stun guns serve broadly the same purpose and people tend to use the two terms interchangeably. However, while both are electroshock weapons, they are significantly different – most crucially in terms of the range at which they can be used. A taser can be used from a distance (in some cases up to 30 feet). It typically shoots out two probes which penetrate the target and deliver the required electric shock. A stun gun, on the other hand, has two prongs which do not extend – meaning direct physical contact with the target is necessary to transfer an electric shock.

Are stun guns legal in the UK?

No. Many people do not realise that stun guns are illegal in the UK, and can fall foul of the law as a result – particularly when purchasing them online from countries where their manufacture is legal. However, due to their ability to harm or incapacitate, stun guns are classed as firearms under UK law. This means that possession of one is illegal, in private or in public, just as it would be with any other firearm. 

Stun gun UK law and sentencing

Stun guns are considered firearms, and as such are controlled under the Firearms Act 1986 – because they electrical discharge they produce is classified as “noxious”. This means that possessing, purchasing, acquiring, manufacturing, selling or transferring one is classed as a criminal offence in the UK. There are two tiers of charge for possessing a stun gun, depending on if it is non-disguised or disguised (a disguised stun gun, just like a taser, is usually in the guise of an item such as a torch or phone). Possession of a non-disguised stun gun carries a sentence of up to ten years in prison, while possession of a disguised stun gun is significantly more serious and carries a minimum five-year prison sentence.

How we can help you

At Wheldon Law we have a team of specialist firearm defence solicitors, with extensive experience in defending firearms cases. We have had considerable success in helping people avoid the specified 5 year minimum imprisonment term for carrying a taser torch.

If you are charged with possession of a disguised firearm, you should always seek legal representation. Contact Wheldon Law on 01442 242999 for a free 15 minute initial consultation, where we can provide initial legal advice.

Several cases of exceptional circumstances regarding carrying a taser torch have been fought
and won.  The authorities can sometimes be convinced to accept a guilty plea to a different offence, such as a customs offence, which does not carry any minimum term. In some instances, you may receive a fine for such an offence, rather than any prison term.

As technology evolves so does the law. With an increasing body of forensic knowledge, it is now possible to argue that an item is not disguised, rather it is dual purpose.

Even if the case looks bleak at first, some cases can still go to trial.  The best approach is to always consult an experienced solicitor with experience in defending firearms cases, as they will be best placed to advise you and, should you choose, to defend the allegation against you.