I noticed this new law that came in to effect in May this year [here].
On the face of it, it simply makes it an offence to sell specialist printing equipment to people where you know they intend to break any law using it. It allows for a 10 year prison sentence and/or fines.
Well, I think not. Even if it works entirely as intended then what really is the point of this law? How would anyone selling such equipment actually "know" that the customer is intending to break the law? I cannot see any requirement to "make enquiries" as to the intended use of the equipment. I cannot even see a "might reasonably expect that the intended use is not lawful". The wording is that the seller "knows" the equipment will, or is intended to, be used to break the law. How would you prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that someone selling a printer actually knew the buyer was intending to break the law?
However, in my non legal opinion, the drafting of this is really not very good leading to several other problems.
What is a specialist printer?
I bet you would assume that it is things like the SIM card printer I mentioned, which can even do "invisible" UV printing that only shows under a UV light, and can have attachments to include a hologram laminate layer. Clearly that is a tad "specialist". However, the definition covers printers that can do any ID documents, or Travel documents, or Entry documents. Actually, it is designed, adapted, or simply "capable" of making a relevant document.
Even so, that sounds like "specialist" equipment, i.e. stuff that could print a driving licence or passport. Well, yes, and no. It goes on to describe these, and includes any document that is a travel or entry ticket. So if you can print off your flight eTicket on a normal printer, or print the entry ticket to the beer festival, on a "normal printer", then that means every normal printer is a specialist printer because it is "capable" of printing such a document. OK, many such tickets have a bar code, so maybe the old daisy wheel printer I have in my loft would not count (though it would be capable of printing a QR code using full stops).
Also, the intended criminal use just has to be something using the printer, it does not have to be something using the printer to make these documents. It specifically says any criminal offence under UK (or non UK) law is covered. So if a printer is "capable" of printing any entry or travel ticket, it is covered, and if the seller knows it will be used in an way to commit any offence then they are guilty of an offence by selling it.
If some company ordered a printer using an order form or letterhead which did not include the necessary details as defined in the Companies Act (e.g. company registration number and registered office), and perhaps when ordering or enquiring they even said to the seller that they need a new printer that can print their letterheads, like this one. Then the seller would know that they intend to break the law (Companies Act) using that printer. It is a printer capable of printing entry or travel tickets, so is "specialist printing equipment", so the seller could get a 10 year prison sentence for that?
Not just printers!
It gets worse, the specialist printing equipment not only covers any normal printer, but also "any device, machinery or apparatus and any wire or cable, together with any software used with it".
So just selling software, or a USB lead, that is used with a normal printer to someone that you know is intending to break any law using a printer makes you a criminal.
Even worse, it covers materials used to make such documents, so if you sell paper you could be covered by this!
I can't help feeling that our government like making laws that can, in fact, encompass almost any citizens, just in case they feel like locking someone up.
Or, perhaps, conspiracy theories aside, this may be an example of how technically inept the government are, even in areas as simple as printing!
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