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Not Guilty - Possession of Explosive Devices and Chemical Weapons - Crown Court

Our Senior solicitor and instructed barristers, successfully defended RW in relation to 28 complex charges contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act 1996 and the Explosive Substances Act 1883

The Explosive Substances Act 1883 is the primary legislation regarding offences relating to causing explosions or possessing explosives likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property. The Poisons Act 1972 addresses the sale of non-medicinal poisons, and the involvement of Local Authorities and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain in their regulation. Further, the Chemical Weapons Act 1996 aims to promote the control of chemical weapons and certain toxic chemicals.

The most common offences and their elements:

  • To establish the offence of having possession or control of any explosive substance, contrary to Section 4(1), Explosive Substances Act 1883, the prosecution must prove:
    • (1) that the individual makes, or knowingly has in his possession, or under his control, any explosive substance
    • (2) this gives rise to reasonable suspicion that he does not make it, have it in his possession, or under his control, for a lawful object.
  • To establish the offence of having possession, custody or control of a regulated substance without a license, contrary to Section 3(1), Poisons Act 1972, the prosecution must prove:
    • (1)  a member of the general public has imported, acquired, possessed, or used a regulated substance, without having a license or a recognised non-GB license.
    • Further definitions of these elements can be found under section 3(3)(a)-(e).
  • To establish the offence of using, developing, possessing, or participating in the transfer of a chemical weapon, or engaging in military preparations, or in preparations of a military nature, intending to use a chemical weapon, contrary to Section 2(1), Chemical Weapons Act 1996, the prosecution must prove:
    • (1) an individual has used a chemical weapon; developed or produced a chemical weapon; has a chemical weapon in his possession; participated in the transfer of a chemical weapon; or engaged in military preparations, or in preparations of a military nature, intending to use a chemical weapon.
    • Further definitions of these elements can be found under section 2.

Our client was initially arrested for offences contrary to the Terrorism Act. It was alleged by the prosecution that they had far right/ white supremacist views and was in the advanced stages of preparing to build a ‘KGB-style’ chemical weapon. Part of the case facing our client were the allegations that they had amassed vast quantities of chemicals and had successfully created a huge range of cyanides, explosives and even a gas chamber both in the UK and overseas. Furthermore, following a search of his property, our client was found to be in possession of a vast quantity of chemicals and explosives, including grenades, mines and chemical substances including hydrogen cyanide. Consequently, he faced 75 severe charges under the Explosive Substances Act 1883, Poisons Act 1972 and the Chemical Weapons Act 1996. The Prosecution alleged an ulterior potentially terrorist motive for the possession of these items.

The number of counts was significantly reduced from 75 following successful objection to the way in which they had been particularised. Counts 68 to 72 were based upon the allegation that our client had possession of items controlled under the Poisons Act. The entirety of the case was carefully considered by our team and instructed counsel, formed of a top London KC and a leading junior barrister, before advising our client to plead guilty to those 5 offences, which were offences of strict liability where no defence was available once possession was established.

Our client’s remaining charges alleged knowledge and preparatory efforts to construct explosives and a chemical weapon to cause devastation. In the face of the sheer quantity of dangerous materials found in connection with our client, there was meticulous preparation of the defence. This included visiting our client in custody upon numerous occasions, preparing to cross examine the very senior scientist called by the Prosecution, and crafting legal argument to justify possession of explosive substances for the purposes of personal educational development in light of the Supreme Court decision in R v Copeland [2020] UKSC 8. Solicitor Pretesh Chauhan had to analyse and challenge over 50 detailed prosecution expert reports on a variety of topics. By skilfully navigating through the significant weight of prosecution evidence, the legal team were able to demonstrate that our client was seriously misunderstood by the authorities. The jury accepted that he was a keen chemist with borderline-genius knowledge in that field and had no nefarious purpose behind the huge range of material he had accumulated over many years.

As a result of this hard work, our client was able to successfully plead not guilty for 28 charges of possessing explosive devices and chemical weapons and was cleared on all trial counts by a jury. This was a landmark achievement considering the volume of evidence and the severity of the charges, attributable to the consistent hard work of solicitors and counsel. 

Please find the story as publicised by the BBC under the following link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-54391626

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