Proposed sentencing guidelines for firearms offences published

Draft guidelines for sentencing offenders for the most commonly sentenced firearms offences were published today in a consultation launched by the Sentencing Council.

The consultation is seeking the views of judges, magistrates and others interested in the sentencing of these offences on the proposals. The consultation runs from 9 October 2019 to 14 January 2020.

The aim of the guidelines, which will apply to adult offenders in England and Wales, is to ensure consistency in sentencing and appropriate sentence levels for the unlawful possession of firearms.

Firearms offences are serious. Some offences carry life imprisonment, some carry sentences of up to 10 years, and some require minimum sentences of five years, but there are currently no sentencing guidelines in the Crown Court and only one for use in magistrates’ courts.

There are eight draft guidelines covering the offences below under the Firearms Act 1968:

  • Possession, purchase or acquisition of a prohibited weapon or ammunition
  • Possession, purchase or acquisition of a firearm/ammunition/shotgun without a certificate
  • Possession of a firearm or ammunition by person with previous convictions prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition
  • Carrying a firearm in a public place
  • Possession of firearm with intent to endanger life
  • Possession of firearm or imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence
  • Use of firearm or imitation firearm to resist arrest/possession of firearm or imitation firearm while committing a Schedule 1 offence/carrying firearm or imitation firearm with criminal
  • Manufacture/sell or transfer/possess for sale or transfer/purchase or acquire for sale or transfer prohibited weapon or ammunition

Sentencing Council member Mrs Justice Maura McGowan said:

 “Offences involving firearms are taken very seriously by all courts. The legislation is complex and we know that judges and magistrates will welcome guidelines in this difficult area of sentencing.

“These draft guidelines cover a range of offending relating to the possession, manufacturing and transferring of firearms and aim to provide a structured framework for courts to ensure a consistent approach to sentencing that meets the seriousness of the offending. We welcome views on the proposals.”

The firearms offences in the guidelines relate to matters such as possessing, carrying, making or transferring firearms only. Where a firearm is used to cause death or injury, other charges such as murder, attempted murder, or causing grievous bodily harm would be brought in addition to the firearms offence.

Notes to editors

  1. The guidelines cover the following offences in the Firearms Act 1968:

Offence

Maximum sentence

Possession, purchase or acquisition of a prohibited weapon or ammunition – sections 5(1), 5(1A);

10 years

Possession, purchase or acquisition of a firearm/ammunition/shotgun without a certificate – sections 1(1), 2(1);

Up to 7 years

Possession of a firearm or ammunition by person with previous convictions prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition – section 21(4), 21(5);

5 years

Carrying a firearm in a public place – section 19;

 

Up to 7 years depending on the type of weapon

Possession of firearm with intent to endanger life – section 16;

Life

Possession of firearm or imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence – section 16A;

10 years

Use of firearm or imitation firearm to resist arrest/possession of firearm or imitation firearm while committing a Schedule 1 offence/carrying firearm or imitation firearm with criminal intent – sections 17(1), 17(2), 18;

Life

Manufacture/sell or transfer/possess for sale or transfer/purchase or acquire for sale or transfer prohibited weapon or ammunition – section 5(2A)

Life

  1. Currently, there is only one sentencing guideline for firearms offences: that of carrying a firearm in a public place which is included in the Magistrates Courts Sentencing Guidelines (MCSG). There are no sentencing guidelines for firearms offences for use in the Crown Court.
  2. In the absence of sentencing guidelines courts rely on previous decisions of the Court of Appeal to give guidance on sentencing firearms cases.
  3. Firearms legislation is complex with 35 statutes governing the use of firearms as well as numerous pieces of secondary legislation.
  4. Sentencing guidelines must be followed, unless a judge or magistrate considers it is not in the interest of justice to do so. If a judge or magistrate believes that a guideline prevents the correct sentence from being given in an exceptional case, he or she can sentence outside of the guideline.
  5. Guidelines set sentencing ranges within the maximum for the offence as set out in current legislation. The guidelines are intended to reflect current sentencing practice for these offences.
  6. The Sentencing Council was established by Parliament to be an independent body, but accountable to Parliament for its work which is scrutinised by the Justice Select Committee. Justice Ministers are accountable to Parliament for the Sentencing Council’s effectiveness and efficiency, for its use of public funds and for protecting its independence. Judicial Council members are appointed by the Lord Chief Justice with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor. Non-judicial council members are appointed by the Lord Chancellor with the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice.

 

For more information, please contact Kathryn Montague, Sentencing Council Press Office, on 020 7071 5792 / 5788