Forgery and counterfeiting

Under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 (FCA 1981), it is an offence to:

  • make a false instrument;
  • copy a false instrument;
  • use a false instrument;
  • use a copy of a false instrument;
  • have in your custody or under your control a false instrument or the means of making one.

For these offences to be made out, you must know the instrument is false, have the intention that you or another shall use it to induce somebody to accept it as genuine, and by reason of so accepting it to do or not to do some act to his own or any other person’s prejudice.

Under s 5(5), the documents for which this offence applies are:

  • money orders;
  • postal orders;
  • UK postage stamps;
  • inland revenue stamps;
  • share certificates;
  • cheques;
  • travellers cheques;
  • bankers’ drafts;
  • promissory notes;
  • cheque cards;
  • credit cards;
  • debit cards;
  • birth and marriage certificates.


Those convicted of the above offences face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Identity Documents Act 2010

The Identity Cards Act 2006 (ICA 2006) came into force on the 7 July 2006 and repealed ss 5(5)(a) and 5(5)(f) of the FCA 1981  concerning identity documents. This has subsequently been repealed and replaced by the Identity Documents Act 2010 (IDA 2010).

Under s 6 of IDA 2010 it is an offence to be in possession of:

  • identity documents which are false;
  • a genuine identity document which has been improperly obtained or relates to another person;
  • equipment which is designed or adapted for making false identity documents.

What is meant by identity documents?

Under 7 of the IDA 2006, an identity document is:

  • an immigration document;
  • a UK passport (within the meaning of the Immigration Act 1971);
  • a passport issued by or on behalf of the authorities of a country or territory outside the UK or by or on behalf of an international organization;
  • a document that can be used (in some or all circumstances) instead of a passport;
  • a licence to drive a motor vehicle granted under Part 3 of the Road Traffic 1988 or under Part 2 of the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1981;
  • a driving licence issued by or on behalf of the authorities of a country or territory outside the UK.

Statutory defence against s 25

Section 31 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 has a statutory defence against s 6 of the IDA 2006 based on Art 31(1) of the Refugee Convention. This states that it shall not apply when a refugee has come to the UK directly from a county where his life or freedom was threatened.

Article written by...
Nicola Laver LLB
Nicola Laver LLB

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A non-practising solicitor, Nicola is also a fully qualified journalist. For the past 20 years, she has worked as a legal journalist, editor and author.