Helston Forensics

Forensic Ballistic Laboratories at Helston Factory





Scenario 4

An ex-soldier is found with a green military flare pack at his home. He claims he purchased it at a car boot sale. On examination the pack contains 3 live flare cartridges and one fired cartridge (pictured above). Has any offence for possession been committed?

Anna Lyzer

"I recall at the Forensic Science Service we had a policy of classifying them as Section 1 (signalling apparatus). Because the empty flare cartridge can be reloaded with .22 short or .22LR ammunition. i.e. ‘A lethal barrelled weapon’."

Lee N Field

"Dear Anna. How can it be a Section 1 firearm? It’s not a weapon, it is a pyrotechnic apparatus, “Signal Kit Pyrotechnic” gives it away. I know it says pistol but it is not a pistol. So in my opinion signalling flares are not firearms."

B. Lowback

Being pyrotechnic apparatus doesn’t rule out being a firearm, as an ordinary flare pistol would be. But not being a barrelled weapon should. The Home Office Guidance to the police isn’t law, but an acknowledgement of law, and while it lists a “pen-type launcher” as requiring authorisation (incorrectly, I think), it says that a “flares of a type that use a male spigot-type projector” aren’t. I haven’t seen one of these flares, but I assume it is no more than attached by a screw or clip at its rear end.

Unless it extends much further into the body of the launcher, I doubt very much if a conviction was ever sustained on the policy of considering the cartridge a lethal barrelled weapon. Assuming the aluminium cartridge to enclose no more than the case of a .22, we might as well call any empty cartridge case a muzzle-loading firearm.

There remains the possibility that the items were stolen from his former employer. But that seems about as grave and about as unprovable as my grandfather’s First World War hoof-rasp.

Helston Forensics Response

Thank you to those who took part in this discussion, we have added a final pdf download with some points you may wish to consider.


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