How easy is it to buy a crossbow online? Laws urgently being reviewed after three women killed

Deadly crossbows can be easily bought online for as little as £50, as calls grow for a change to the law on their ownership.

Security minister Dan Jarvis has said the government will move “at pace” to review the law on crossbow ownership after three women were killed in Hertfordshire.

The victims were BBC racing commentator John Hunt’s wife Carol, 61, and two of their daughters – Hannah, 28, and Louise, 25 – who died after being found with serious injuries at a house in Bushey on Tuesday.

What is a crossbow and how easily can they be bought?

A crossbow is a short-range weapon that fires arrow-like projectiles - known as bolts or quarrels - from a frame called a tiller.

They are used in archery and were previously used for hunting, although that is now illegal.

Crossbow weapons can be bought online for just £50 by showing a picture of a driving licence, and can be assembled within a matter of minutes.

There is currently no registration system for owning a crossbow and no requirement for a licence.

A crossbow being sold online, seen by The Independent, had a draw weight of 80lbs and was capable of firing metal bolts over 65 feet.

Some larger models are capable of firing at speeds of up to 100mph.

Fibreglass bolts can be purchased online for as little as £7, with more expensive timber bolts at £140.

The Government is considering proposals in a bid to prevent crossbows from being used in violent attacks (Alamy/PA)
The Government is considering proposals in a bid to prevent crossbows from being used in violent attacks (Alamy/PA)

What are the current laws around crossbows?

Under The Crossbow Act 1987, it is illegal to buy, sell, hire, or possess a crossbow if you are under 18.

Adults over the age of 18 do not need a licence to own one.

However, if someone is found with a crossbow in public "without a reasonable excuse" they can face a maximum sentence of four years imprisonment.

Following several incidents in recent years, the previous Conservative government ordered a review of crossbow legislation.

It launched an eight-week consultation, which concluded in April. Any action based on the consultation was cut short when Rishi Sunak called the general election.

What is the government doing now?

Home Secretary Yvette Cooper is urgently considering whether tougher crossbow laws are needed in the wake of the killings.

She said will look at the findings of the Home Office review.

Security minister Dan Jarvis said: “I know that the home secretary 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.”

A Home Office spokesperson 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.”