Are crossbows legal in the UK? Labour minister says laws need to be urgently examined

Crossbow laws need to be urgently examined, security minister Dan Jarvis has said, after the wife of BBC 5 Live racing commentator John Hunt and two of their daughters were killed in Bushey, Hertfordshire.

Carol Hunt, 61, Hannah, 28, and Louise, 25 were all killed on Tuesday night in an attack police that police believe to have been targeted.

Chief Superintendent Jon Simpson said the attacker was believed to have used a crossbow, adding that other weapons have been involved.

On Wednesday night, Hertfordshire Constabulary detained north London man Kyle Clifford, 26, in connection to the murders, and have said they are not seeking anyone else. Clifford is currently in hospital with injuries.

The incident has ignited debate over crossbow use.

Asked whether laws on owning the deadly weapons should be tightened, Mr Jarvis told Sky News: "I know that the Home Secretary [Yvette Cooper] is looking at this literally as we speak.

“There was a call for evidence that was initiated a number of months ago. She will want to consider that evidence in the round.

"She'll want to look clearly, very carefully at what happened yesterday - devastating events - and she will take a view in the near future."

Security minister Dan Jarvis has urged a review (PA Archive)
Security minister Dan Jarvis has urged a review (PA Archive)

Are crossbows legal in the UK?

Crossbows are legal in the UK for anyone aged 18 or over.

Under current legislation, it is illegal for anyone under 18 to purchase or possess a crossbow, according to UK law.

Anyone who carries a crossbow in public without reasonable excuse faces up to four years behind bars.

It is also an offence to hunt animals using a crossbow under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Will the law be changed?

The home office is said to be urgently looking into whether tougher crossbow laws need to be introduced in light of the Bushey attack.

“This is an appalling incident and the Home Secretary is being kept updated by the police,” a spokesman for the department said.

“We keep legislation under constant review and a call for evidence was launched earlier this year to look at whether further controls on crossbows should be introduced.

“The home secretary will swiftly consider the findings to see if laws need to be tightened further.”

Home Secretary Yvette Cooper is looking into the laws (PA Wire)
Home Secretary Yvette Cooper is looking into the laws (PA Wire)

There had previously been a call for the law to be strengthened and a review was called in February under the Rishi Sunak government.

Then safeguarding minister Laura Farris, who has now lost her seat, said that the government of the day was looking into strengthened rules.

She said: “Whilst crossbow incidents are rare – there were fewer than 10 homicides by crossbow between 2011 and 2021 – it is clear that when used as a weapon, crossbows do pose a risk.

“The government is determined to ensure any needed safeguards are in place to keep the public safe.”

Strengthened rules, she added, could include a licensing scheme to protect public safety police checks for anyone looking to purchase a crossbow.

Can you shoot a crossbow in your backyard in the UK?

UK law does not prohibit you from practising archery on your own property but you may fall foul of the Civil Liberties Act if you do so unsafely.

Archery UK has a guide to safety-proofing your garden for archery practice.