Britain’s crossbow rules in the crosshairs after Windsor Castle breach

The New York Times
London, UKWritten By: Isabella Kwai © 2021 The New York Times CompanyUpdated: Dec 28, 2021, 11:30 PM IST


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The British monarch had celebrated the holiday at Windsor Castle instead of at her estate in Sandringham, Norfolk, as is her usual practice

Regulations governing crossbows in Britain are receiving renewed attention after a man was apprehended with one on the grounds of Windsor Castle, where members of the royal family had gathered for the Christmas holiday.

“We are considering options to strengthen controls on crossbows,” a spokesman for Britain’s Home Office said in a statement Tuesday, as part of a continuing review of rules on lethal weapons ordered this year by Priti Patel, the home secretary.

The renewed scrutiny comes days after an intruder breached the castle grounds on Christmas morning. A 19-year-old man was arrested “on suspicion of breach or trespass of a protected site and possession of an offensive weapon,” according to police, while Queen Elizabeth II was on the premises with other members of the royal family.

The British monarch had celebrated the holiday at Windsor Castle instead of at her estate in Sandringham, Norfolk, as is her usual practice. Buckingham Palace said the decision was a “precautionary approach” because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The man arrested, whom police declined to identify, did not enter any buildings or endanger the royal family. But police officers said they found a crossbow after searching him, adding that he was in the care of medical professionals receiving treatment for mental health issues.

Under existing legislation, crossbows can be purchased over the counter or on the internet by those older than 18. Owners do not need a license or certificate to operate the weapons and, unlike shotguns and firearms, police do not have an official record of who owns them and how many are in circulation.

Detectives said they were reviewing a video as part of the investigation, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement Monday, but declined to give further details.

Controls on weapons such as crossbows drew particular concern in 2018 after a British man broke into a neighbor’s home in East Yorkshire, shooting and killing him with a crossbow and injuring his pregnant partner. In a 2021 report investigating the death of the man, a coroner for the county asked top policing officials, including Patel, to review legislation regulating the purchase and possession of crossbows.

“Evidence was heard about the power and lethal capabilities of these weapons, as well as the fact that they are essentially silent,” the coroner, professor Paul Marks, said in the report.

“In my opinion,” he added, “there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken.”

The Home Office said work reviewing the legislation was continuing after the episode in East Yorkshire, adding that it was already an offense to possess arrows, or possess offensive weapons in public spaces “without good reason or lawful authority.”