Skip to main content


Corporate crime analysis: the threat of Specialist Printing

Brett Wilson LLP partner Nick Brett is interviewed by Nicola Laver.  This article was first published on Lexis® PSL Corporate Crime on 16 April 2015.

How will the authorities criminalise the design and adaptation of 'relevant documents' by specialist printing equipment?

Specialist Printing Equipment and Materials (Offences) Act 2015, LNB News 27/03/2015 157

The Specialist Printing Equipment and Materials (Offences) Act 2015 (SPEM(O)A 2015) is introduced to create a specific criminal offence of knowingly supplying specialist printing equipment to criminals.

What constitutes 'specialist printing equipment' for the purposes of this offence?

'Specialist printing equipment' is defined in SPEM(O)A 2015, s 2 as any equipment that is designed or adapted for the making of 'relevant documents'. Those 'relevant documents' are also defined in the same section and include identity documents, travel documents, counterfeit currency instruments and bank cards. SPEM(O)A 2015 comes into force on 26 May 2015.

What is the substance of this offence?

The offence is the supply of specialist printing equipment. The mens rea of the offence can be found in SPEM(O)A 2015 s 1 (1)(b), which is knowledge that the equipment will be or is intended to be used for the purpose of criminal conduct. Criminal conduct is given its ordinary meaning as adopted from the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 s1(2).

How challenging will this offence be to prove in practice?

The most challenging aspect as far as the prosecution are concerned will be the requirement to prove actual knowledge as opposed to mere suspicion as to purpose. SPEM(O)A 2015 has plainly been incorporated with the prevention of terrorism in mind, but I am actually surprised about the limitation in its scope. One could expect, given the recent prevalence in boiler-room style fraud offences where glossy publications are distributed for the purpose of perpetuating misrepresentation, that the list of 'relevant documents' could provide greater scope for application and interpretation. There is a narrow statutory defence where supply was for the purpose of prevention or detection of crime. Practically speaking, the prospect of successfully defending such allegations is likely to be determined by the actual equipment itself. It is difficult, for example, to conceive of a lawful purpose in manufacturing identity documents.

Is the list of 'relevant documents' a closed list?

'Relevant documents' are only those documents or instruments defined in s2 Pt 2 of SPEM(O)A 2015, s 2 (2).

Could the offence conceivably be used to cover the supply of 3D print equipment for the making of a relevant document ?

There is no reason why 'specialist printing equipment' should not include 3D printing equipment. However, the scope of the offence is limited to 'relevant documents'. I would suggest that if the intention was to include, for example, the 3D printing of a firearm or explosive instrument then SPEM(O)A 2015, s 2 (1), as opposed to SPEM(O)A 2015, s 2 (2), could simply be extended to include other articles as opposed to being limited to 'relevant documents'.

What are the sanctions attached to this offence?

The maximum penalty will be imprisonment up to 10 years and or a fine. If a body corporate or a partnership is convicted of the offence, the maximum penalty is a fine.


Legal Disclaimer

Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.