Firearms – Transfer and manufacture

Firearms Act 1968, s.5(2A)(a), Firearms Act 1968, s.5(2A)(b), Firearms Act 1968, s.5(2A)(c), Firearms Act 1968, s.5(2A)(d)

Manufacture weapon or ammunition specified in section 5(1)
Firearms Act 1968 (section 5(2A)(a))

Sell or transfer prohibited weapon or ammunition
Firearms Act 1968 (section 5(2A)(b))

Possess for sale or transfer prohibited weapon or ammunition
Firearms Act 1968 (section 5(2A)(c))

Purchase or acquire for sale or transfer prohibited weapon or ammunition
Firearms Act 1968 (section 5(2A)(d))

Indictable only
Maximum: Life imprisonment
Offence range: 3 – 28 years’ custody

User guide for this offence


Guideline users should be aware that the Equal Treatment Bench Book covers important aspects of fair treatment and disparity of outcomes for different groups in the criminal justice system. It provides guidance which sentencers are encouraged to take into account wherever applicable, to ensure that there is fairness for all involved in court proceedings.

Applicability

In accordance with section 120 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, the Sentencing Council issues this definitive guideline. It applies to all offenders aged 18 and older, who are sentenced on or after the effective date of this guideline, regardless of the date of the offence.*

Section 59(1) of the Sentencing Code provides that:

“Every court –

  1. must, in sentencing an offender, follow any sentencing guidelines which are relevant to the offender’s case, and
  2. must, in exercising any other function relating to the sentencing of offenders, follow any sentencing guidelines which are relevant to the exercise of the function,

unless the court is satisfied that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to do so.”

This guideline applies only to offenders aged 18 and older. General principles to be considered in the sentencing of children and young people are in the Sentencing Council definitive guideline, Overarching Principles – Sentencing Children and Young People.

*The maximum sentence that applies to an offence is the maximum that applied at the date of the offence.

This offence is subject to statutory minimum sentencing provisions which are taken into account at steps 2 and 3. Sentencers should follow each step of the guideline to ensure that all relevant factors are considered.

Step 1 – Determining the offence category

The court should determine the offence category with reference only to the factors listed in the tables below. In order to determine the category the court should assess culpability and harm.

The court should weigh all the factors set out below in determining the offender’s culpability.

Where there are characteristics present which fall under different levels of culpability, the court should balance these characteristics to reach a fair assessment of the offender’s culpability.

Culpability demonstrated by one or more of the following:

A – High culpability:

  • Leading role where offending is part of a group activity, including but not limited to head of enterprise, a lead armourer or a key facilitator
  • Significant planning, including but not limited to significant steps to evade detection
  • Abuse of position of trust or responsibility, for example registered firearms dealer
  • Expectation of substantial financial or other advantage
  • Involves others through coercion, intimidation or exploitation

B – Medium culpability:

  • Significant role where offending is part of a group activity, including but not limited to a purchaser or a provider of significant assistance in facilitating transfer or manufacture
  • Some degree of planning, including but not limited to some steps to evade detection
  • Expectation of significant financial or other advantage
  • Other cases falling between culpability A and C because:
    • Factors are present in A and C which balance each other out and/or
    • The offender’s culpability falls between the factors as described in A and C

C – Lower culpability:

  • Lesser role where offending is part of a group activity, including but not limited to performing a limited function under direction
  • Involved through coercion, intimidation or exploitation
  • Little or no planning
  • Expectation of limited, if any, financial or other advantage

Harm

The court should consider the steps set out below to determine the level of harm caused.

This step is assessed by reference to the scale and nature of the enterprise and any actual harm caused, regardless of the offender’s role.

Category 1

  • Large-scale commercial and/or highly sophisticated enterprise – indicators may include:
    • Large number of prohibited weapons/ ammunition involved
    • Operation over significant time period
    • Operation over significant geographic range
    • Close connection to organised criminal group(s)
  • Evidence firearm/ammunition subsequently used to cause serious injury or death

Category 2

  • Medium-scale enterprise and/or some degree of sophistication, including cases falling between category 1 and category 3 because:
    • Factors in both 1 and 3 are present which balance each other out; and/or
    • The harm falls between the factors as described in 1 and 3
  • Evidence firearm/ammunition subsequently used in criminal offending (where not at category 1)

Category 3

  • Smaller-scale and/or unsophisticated enterprise – indicators may include:
    • Limited number of prohibited weapons/ ammunition involved
    • Operation over limited time period
    • Operation over limited geographic range
    • Minimal/no connection to organised criminal group(s)
  • Evidence firearm/ammunition not subsequently used in criminal offending

Where there are characteristics present which fall under different levels of harm, the court should balance these characteristics to reach a fair assessment of the harm.

Step 2 – Starting point and category range

Having determined the category at step 1, the court should use the corresponding starting point to reach a sentence within the category range below. The starting point applies to all offenders irrespective of plea or previous convictions.

This offence may be subject to a statutory minimum sentence

The minimum term applies in respect of a firearm specified in section 5(1)(a), (ab), (aba), (ac), (ad), (ae) or (af), (c) or section 5(1A)(a) of the Firearms Act 1968.

See step 3 for details of the minimum sentencing provisions and the approach to be taken to consideration of exceptional circumstances.

Harm   Culpability  
  A B C
Category 1

Starting point
20 years’ custody

Starting point
14 years’ custody

Starting point
10 years’ custody

Category range
16 – 28 years’ custody

Category range
12 – 18 years’ custody

Category range
8 – 14 years’ custody

Category 2

Starting point
14 years’ custody

Starting point
10 years’ custody

Starting point
8 years’ custody

Category range
12 – 18 years’ custody

Category range
8 – 14 years’ custody

Category range
6 – 12 years’ custody

Category 3

Starting point
10 years’ custody

Starting point
8 years’ custody

Starting point
6 years’ custody

Category range
8 – 14 years’ custody

Category range
6 – 12 years’ custody

Category range
3 – 8 years’ custody

Custodial sentences

Sentencing flowcharts are available at Imposition of Community and Custodial Sentences definitive guideline.


The approach to the imposition of a custodial sentence should be as follows:

1) Has the custody threshold been passed?

  • A custodial sentence must not be imposed unless the offence or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it was so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified for the offence.
  • There is no general definition of where the custody threshold lies. The circumstances of the individual offence and the factors assessed by offence-specific guidelines will determine whether an offence is so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified. Where no offence specific guideline is available to determine seriousness, the harm caused by the offence, the culpability of the offender and any previous convictions will be relevant to the assessment.
  • The clear intention of the threshold test is to reserve prison as a punishment for the most serious offences.

2) Is it unavoidable that a sentence of imprisonment be imposed?

  • Passing the custody threshold does not mean that a custodial sentence should be deemed inevitable. Custody should not be imposed where a community order could provide sufficient restriction on an offender’s liberty (by way of punishment) while addressing the rehabilitation of the offender to prevent future crime.
  • For offenders on the cusp of custody, imprisonment should not be imposed where there would be an impact on dependants which would make a custodial sentence disproportionate to achieving the aims of sentencing.

3) What is the shortest term commensurate with the seriousness of the offence?

  • In considering this the court must NOT consider any licence or post sentence supervision requirements which may subsequently be imposed upon the offender’s release.

4) Can the sentence be suspended?

  • A suspended sentence MUST NOT be imposed as a more severe form of community order. A suspended sentence is a custodial sentence. Sentencers should be clear that they would impose an immediate custodial sentence if the power to suspend were not available. If not, a non-custodial sentence should be imposed.

The following factors should be weighed in considering whether it is possible to suspend the sentence:

Factors indicating that it would not be appropriate to suspend a custodial sentence

Factors indicating that it may be appropriate to suspend a custodial sentence

Offender presents a risk/danger to the public

Realistic prospect of rehabilitation

Appropriate punishment can only be achieved by immediate custody

Strong personal mitigation

History of poor compliance with court orders

Immediate custody will result in significant harmful impact upon others

The imposition of a custodial sentence is both punishment and a deterrent. To ensure that the overall terms of the suspended sentence are commensurate with offence seriousness, care must be taken to ensure requirements imposed are not excessive. A court wishing to impose onerous or intensive requirements should reconsider whether a community sentence might be more appropriate.

Pre-sentence report

Whenever the court reaches the provisional view that:

  • the custody threshold has been passed; and, if so
  • the length of imprisonment which represents the shortest term commensurate with the seriousness of the offence;

the court should obtain a pre-sentence report, whether verbal or written, unless the court considers a report to be unnecessary. Ideally a pre-sentence report should be completed on the same day to avoid adjourning the case.

Magistrates: Consult your legal adviser before deciding to sentence to custody without a pre-sentence report.

Suspended Sentences: General Guidance

i) The guidance regarding pre-sentence reports applies if suspending custody.

ii) If the court imposes a term of imprisonment of between 14 days and 2 years (subject to magistrates’ courts sentencing powers), it may suspend the sentence for between 6 months and 2 years (the ‘operational period’). The time for which a sentence is suspended should reflect the length of the sentence; up to 12 months might normally be appropriate for a suspended sentence of up to 6 months.

iii) Where the court imposes two or more sentences to be served consecutively, the court may suspend the sentence where the aggregate of the terms is between 14 days and 2 years (subject to magistrates’ courts sentencing powers).

iv) When the court suspends a sentence, it may impose one or more requirements for the offender to undertake in the community. The requirements are identical to those available for community orders, see the guideline on Imposition of Community and Custodial Sentences.

v) A custodial sentence that is suspended should be for the same term that would have applied if the sentence was to be served immediately.

The table below contains a non-exhaustive list of additional factual elements providing the context of the offence and factors relating to the offender. Identify whether any combination of these, or other relevant factors, should result in an upward or downward adjustment from the sentence arrived at so far. In some cases, having considered these factors, it may be appropriate to move outside the identified category range. 

Factors increasing seriousness

Statutory aggravating factors:

  • Previous convictions,

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    Guidance on the use of previous convictions

    The following guidance should be considered when seeking to determine the degree to which previous convictions should aggravate sentence:

    Section 65 of the Sentencing Code states that:

    (1) This section applies where a court is considering the seriousness of an offence (“the current offence”) committed by an offender who has one or more relevant previous convictions.

    (2) The court must treat as an aggravating factor each relevant previous conviction that it considers can reasonably be so treated, having regard in particular to—

    (a) the nature of the offence to which the conviction relates and its relevance to the current offence, and

    (b) the time that has elapsed since the conviction.

    (3) Where the court treats a relevant previous conviction as an aggravating factor under subsection (2) it must state in open court that the offence is so aggravated.

    1. Previous convictions are considered at step two in the Council’s offence-specific guidelines.
    2. The primary significance of previous convictions (including convictions in other jurisdictions) is the extent to which they indicate trends in offending behaviour and possibly the offender’s response to earlier sentences.
    3. Previous convictions are normally relevant to the current offence when they are of a similar type.
    4. Previous convictions of a type different from the current offence may be relevant where they are an indication of persistent offending or escalation and/or a failure to comply with previous court orders.
    5. Numerous and frequent previous convictions might indicate an underlying problem (for example, an addiction) that could be addressed more effectively in the community and will not necessarily indicate that a custodial sentence is necessary.
    6. If the offender received a non-custodial disposal for the previous offence, a court should not necessarily move to a custodial sentence for the fresh offence.
    7. In cases involving significant persistent offending, the community and custody thresholds may be crossed even though the current offence normally warrants a lesser sentence. If a custodial sentence is imposed it should be proportionate and kept to the necessary minimum.
    8. The aggravating effect of relevant previous convictions reduces with the passage of time; older convictions are less relevant to the offender’s culpability for the current offence and less likely to be predictive of future offending.
    9. Where the previous offence is particularly old it will normally have little relevance for the current sentencing exercise.
    10. The court should consider the time gap since the previous conviction and the reason for it. Where there has been a significant gap between previous and current convictions or a reduction in the frequency of offending this may indicate that the offender has made attempts to desist from offending in which case the aggravating effect of the previous offending will diminish.
    11. Where the current offence is significantly less serious than the previous conviction (suggesting a decline in the gravity of offending), the previous conviction may carry less weight.
    12. When considering the totality of previous offending a court should take a rounded view of the previous crimes and not simply aggregate the individual offences.
    13. Where information is available on the context of previous offending this may assist the court in assessing the relevance of that prior offending to the current offence
    having regard to a) the nature of the offence to which the conviction relates and its relevance to the current offence; and b) the time that has elapsed since the conviction
  • Offence committed whilst on bail

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    Section 64 of the Sentencing Code states:

    In considering the seriousness of any offence committed while the offender was on bail, the court must -

    (a) treat the fact that it was committed in those circumstances as an aggravating factor and

    (b) state in open court that the offence is so aggravated.

     

Other aggravating factors:

  • Firearm under section 5(1)(a) (automatic weapon)
  • Steps taken to disguise firearm (where not firearm under section 5(1A)(a))
  • Compatible ammunition and/or silencer(s) supplied with firearm (See step 6 on totality when sentencing for more than one offence)
  • Others put at risk of harm, including by location or method of manufacture or transfer

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    • Where there is risk of harm to other(s) not taken in account at step one and not subject to a separate charge, this makes the offence more serious.
    • Dealing with a risk of harm involves consideration of both the likelihood of harm occurring and the extent of it if it does.

    Where any such risk of harm is the subject of separate charges, this should be taken into account when assessing totality.

    When sentencing young adult offenders (typically aged 18-25), consideration should also be given to the guidance on the mitigating factor relating to age and/or lack of maturity when considering the significance of this factor.

  • Use of business as a cover
  • Attempts to conceal or dispose of the firearm or other evidence

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    The more sophisticated, extensive or persistent the actions after the event, the more likely it is to increase the seriousness of the offence.

    When sentencing young adult offenders (typically aged 18-25), consideration should also be given to the guidance on the mitigating factor relating to age and lack of maturity when considering the significance of such conduct.

    Where any such actions are the subject of separate charges, this should be taken into account when assessing totality.

  • Commission of offence whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    The fact that an offender is voluntarily intoxicated at the time of the offence will tend to increase the seriousness of the offence provided that the intoxication has contributed to the offending.

    This applies regardless of whether the offender is under the influence of legal or illegal substance(s).

    In the case of a person addicted to drugs or alcohol the intoxication may be considered not to be voluntary, but the court should have regard to the extent to which the offender has sought help or engaged with any assistance which has been offered or made available in dealing with the addiction.

    An offender who has voluntarily consumed drugs and/or alcohol must accept the consequences of the behaviour that results, even if it is out of character.

     

  • Offender prohibited from possessing weapon or ammunition because of previous conviction (Care should be taken to avoid double counting matters taken into account when considering previous convictions. See step 6 on totality when sentencing for more than one offence)
  • Failure to comply with current court orders

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    • Commission of an offence while subject to a relevant court order makes the offence more serious.
    • The extent to which the offender has complied with the conditions of an order (including the time that has elapsed since its commencement) will be a relevant consideration.
    • Where the offender is dealt with separately for a breach of an order regard should be had to totality
    • Care should be taken to avoid double counting matters taken into account when considering previous convictions.

    When sentencing young adult offenders (typically aged 18-25), consideration should also be given to the guidance on the mitigating factor relating to age and/or lack of maturity when considering the significance of this factor.

  • Offence committed on licence or post sentence supervision

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    • An offender who is subject to licence or post sentence supervision is under a particular obligation to desist from further offending.
    • The extent to which the offender has complied with the conditions of a licence or order (including the time that has elapsed since its commencement) will be a relevant consideration.
    • Where the offender is dealt with separately for a breach of a licence or order regard should be had to totality.
    • Care should be taken to avoid double counting matters taken into account when considering previous convictions.

    When sentencing young adult offenders (typically aged 18-25), consideration should also be given to the guidance on the mitigating factor relating to age and/or lack of maturity when considering the significance of this factor.

Factors reducing seriousness or reflecting personal mitigation

  • No previous convictions or no relevant/recent convictions

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm

    • First time offenders usually represent a lower risk of reoffending. Reoffending rates for first offenders are significantly lower than rates for repeat offenders. In addition, first offenders are normally regarded as less blameworthy than offenders who have committed the same crime several times already. For these reasons first offenders receive a mitigated sentence.
    • Where there are previous offences but these are old and /or are for offending of a different nature, the sentence will normally be reduced to reflect that the new offence is not part of a pattern of offending and there is therefore a lower likelihood of reoffending.
    • When assessing whether a previous conviction is ‘recent’ the court should consider the time gap since the previous conviction and the reason for it. 
    • Previous convictions are likely to be ‘relevant’ when they share characteristics with the current offence (examples of such characteristics include, but are not limited to: dishonesty, violence, abuse of position or trust, use or possession of weapons, disobedience of court orders).  In general the more serious the previous offending the longer it will retain relevance.
  • Good character and/or exemplary conduct

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm

    This factor may apply whether or not the offender has previous convictions.  Evidence that an offender has demonstrated positive good character through, for example, charitable works may reduce the sentence. 

    However, this factor is less likely to be relevant where the offending is very serious.  Where an offender has used their good character or status to facilitate or conceal the offending it could be treated as an aggravating factor.

  • Firearm/ammunition not subject to minimum term
  • Firearm incomplete or incapable of being discharged (including stun gun that is not charged and not held with a functioning charger)
  • Genuine belief that firearm will not be used for criminal purpose
  • No knowledge or suspicion that item possessed was firearm/ammunition
  • No knowledge or suspicion that firearm/ammunition is prohibited
  • Voluntary surrender of firearm/ammunition
  • Offender co-operated with investigation and/or made early admissions

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm

    Assisting or cooperating with the investigation and /or making pre-court admissions may ease the effect on victims and witnesses and save valuable police time justifying a reduction in sentence (separate from any guilty plea reduction).

  • Remorse

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm

    The court will need to be satisfied that the offender is genuinely remorseful for the offending behaviour in order to reduce the sentence (separate from any guilty plea reduction).

    Lack of remorse should never be treated as an aggravating factor.

  • Serious medical condition requiring urgent, intensive or long-term treatment

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    • The court can take account of physical disability or a serious medical condition by way of mitigation as a reason for reducing the length of the sentence, either on the ground of the greater impact which imprisonment will have on the offender, or as a matter of generally expressed mercy in the individual circumstances of the case.
    • However, such a condition, even when it is difficult to treat in prison, will not automatically entitle the offender to a lesser sentence than would otherwise be appropriate.
    • There will always be a need to balance issues personal to an offender against the gravity of the offending (including the harm done to victims), and the public interest in imposing appropriate punishment for serious offending.
    • A terminal prognosis is not in itself a reason to reduce the sentence even further. The court must impose a sentence that properly meets the aims of sentencing even if it will carry the clear prospect that the offender will die in custody. The prospect of death in the near future will be a matter considered by the prison authorities and the Secretary of State under the early release on compassionate grounds procedure (ERCG).
    • But, an offender’s knowledge that he will likely face the prospect of death in prison, subject only to the ERCG provisions, is a factor that can be considered by the sentencing judge when determining the sentence that it would be just to impose.
  • Age and/or lack of maturity

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm

    Age and/or lack of maturity can affect:

    • the offender’s responsibility for the offence and
    • the effect of the sentence on the offender.

    Either or both of these considerations may justify a reduction in the sentence.

    The emotional and developmental age of an offender is of at least equal importance to their chronological age (if not greater). 

    In particular young adults (typically aged 18-25) are still developing neurologically and consequently may be less able to:

    • evaluate the consequences of their actions
    • limit impulsivity
    • limit risk taking

    Young adults are likely to be susceptible to peer pressure and are more likely to take risks or behave impulsively when in company with their peers.

    Immaturity can also result from atypical brain development. Environment plays a role in neurological development and factors such as adverse childhood experiences including deprivation and/or abuse may affect development.

    An immature offender may find it particularly difficult to cope with custody and therefore may be more susceptible to self-harm in custody.

    An immature offender may find it particularly difficult to cope with the requirements of a community order without appropriate support.

    There is a greater capacity for change in immature offenders and they may be receptive to opportunities to address their offending behaviour and change their conduct.

    Many young people who offend either stop committing crime, or begin a process of stopping, in their late teens and early twenties.  Therefore a young adult’s previous convictions may not be indicative of a tendency for further offending.

    Where the offender is a care leaver the court should enquire as to any effect a sentence may have on the offender’s ability to make use of support from the local authority. (Young adult care leavers are entitled to time limited support. Leaving care services may change at the age of 21 and cease at the age of 25, unless the young adult is in education at that point). See also the Sentencing Children and Young People Guideline (paragraphs 1.16 and 1.17).

    Where an offender has turned 18 between the commission of the offence and conviction the court should take as its starting point the sentence likely to have been imposed on the date at which the offence was committed, but applying the purposes of sentencing adult offenders. See also the Sentencing Children and Young People Guideline (paragraphs 6.1 to 6.3).

    When considering a custodial or community sentence for a young adult the National Probation Service should address these issues in a PSR.

  • Mental disorder or learning disability track

    Effective from: 01 October 2020

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence

    Refer to the Sentencing offenders with mental disorders, developmental disorders, or neurological impairments guideline.

  • Sole or primary carer for dependent relatives

    Effective from: 01 October 2019

    Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm

    This factor is particularly relevant where an offender is on the cusp of custody or where the suitability of a community order is being considered.  See also the Imposition of community and custodial sentences guideline.

    For offenders on the cusp of custody, imprisonment should not be imposed where there would be an impact on dependants which would make a custodial sentence disproportionate to achieving the aims of sentencing.

    Where custody is unavoidable consideration of the impact on dependants may be relevant to the length of the sentence imposed and whether the sentence can be suspended.

    For more serious offences where a substantial period of custody is appropriate, this factor will carry less weight.

    ­When imposing a community sentence on an offender with primary caring responsibilities the effect on dependants must be considered in determining suitable requirements.

    In addition when sentencing an offender who is pregnant relevant considerations may include:

    • any effect of the sentence on the health of the offender and
    • any effect of the sentence on the unborn child

    The court should ensure that it has all relevant information about dependent children before deciding on sentence.

    When an immediate custodial sentence is necessary, the court must consider whether proper arrangements have been made for the care of any dependent children and if necessary consider adjourning sentence for this to be done.

    When considering a community or custodial sentence for an offender who has, or may have, caring responsibilities the court should ask the National Probation Service to address these issues in a PSR.

    Useful information can be found in the Equal Treatment Bench Book (see in particular Chapter 6 paragraphs 94-100)

     

Step 3 – Minimum term and exceptional circumstances

Minimum Term

1.    Where the minimum term provisions under section 311 and Schedule 20 of the Sentencing Code apply, a court must impose a sentence of at least five years’ custody irrespective of plea unless the court is of the opinion that there are exceptional circumstances relating to the offence or to the offender which justify its not doing so.

Applicability

2.    The minimum terms provisions apply when sentencing offences in respect of a firearm or ammunition specified in section 5(1)(a), (ab), (aba), (ac), (ad), (ae), (af) or (c) or section 5(1A)(a) of the Firearms Act 1968. Note: the minimum term provisions do not apply to offences charged as conspiracies.

 3.    The minimum term applies to all such offences including the first offence, and regardless of plea. Where it applies the sentence cannot be reduced below the minimum term for a guilty plea (see Step 5 – Reduction for guilty pleas).

4.    The minimum term of five years applies to offenders aged 18 or over when the offence was committed.  See below for guidance when sentencing offenders aged under 18 when the offence was committed.

5.    Where the minimum term applies, this should be stated expressly.

Exceptional circumstances

6.    In considering whether there are exceptional circumstances that would justify not imposing the statutory minimum sentence, the court must have regard to:

  • the particular circumstances of the offence and
  • the particular circumstances of the offender.

either of which may give rise to exceptional circumstances

7.    Where the factual circumstances are disputed, the procedure should follow that of a Newton hearing: see Criminal Practice Directions VII: Sentencing B.

8.    Where the issue of exceptional circumstances has been raised the court should give a clear explanation as to why those circumstances have or have not been found.

Principles

9.    Circumstances are exceptional if the imposition of the minimum term would result in an arbitrary and disproportionate sentence.

10.  The circumstances must truly be exceptional. It is important that courts do not undermine the intention of Parliament and the deterrent purpose of the minimum term provisions by too readily accepting exceptional circumstances.

11.  The court should look at all of the circumstances of the case taken together. A single striking factor may amount to exceptional circumstances, or it may be the collective impact of all of the relevant circumstances.

12.  The mere presence of one or more of the following should not in itself be regarded as exceptional:

  • One or more lower culpability factors
  • One or more mitigating factors
  • A plea of guilty

Where exceptional circumstances are found

13.  If there are exceptional circumstances that justify not imposing the statutory minimum sentence then the court must impose either a shorter custodial sentence than the statutory minimum provides or an alternative sentence. Note: a guilty plea reduction applies in the normal way if the minimum term is not imposed (see Step 5 – Reduction for guilty pleas).

Sentencing offenders aged under 18 at the date of the offence
  1. Where the offender is aged 16 or 17 when the offence was committed, the minimum term is three years’ custody. Where the offender is under 16 when the offence was committed, the minimum term does not apply.
  2. Subject to the minimum term, where the offender is aged under 18 at the date of conviction the court should determine the sentence in accordance with the Sentencing Children and Young People guideline, particularly paragraphs 6.42-6.49 on custodial sentences.
  3. This guidance states at paragraph 6.46: “When considering the relevant adult guideline, the court may feel it appropriate to apply a sentence broadly within the region of half to two thirds of the adult sentence for those aged 15 – 17 and allow a greater reduction for those aged under 15. This is only a rough guide and must not be applied mechanistically. In most cases when considering the appropriate reduction from the adult sentence the emotional and developmental age and maturity of the child or young person is of at least equal importance as their chronological age.”
  4. The considerations above on exceptional circumstances relating to the offence or offender apply equally when sentencing offenders aged 16 or 17 at the date of the offence.

Step 4 – Consider any factors which indicate a reduction for assistance to the prosecution

The court should take into account section 74 of the Sentencing Code (reduction in sentence for assistance to prosecution) and any other rule of law by virtue of which an offender may receive a discounted sentence in consequence of assistance given (or offered) to the prosecutor or investigator.

Step 5 – Reduction for guilty pleas

The court should take account of any reduction for a guilty plea in accordance with section 73 of the Sentencing Code and the Reduction in sentence for a guilty plea guideline.

Where a minimum sentence has been imposed under section 311 of the Sentencing Code, the court must ensure that any reduction for a guilty plea does not reduce the sentence to less than the required minimum term.

Step 6 – Totality principle

If sentencing an offender for more than one offence, or where the offender is already serving a sentence, consider whether the total sentence is just and proportionate to the overall offending behaviour in accordance with the Totality guideline.

Step 7 – Ancillary orders

In all cases the court should consider whether to make ancillary orders.

Forfeiture and destruction of firearms and cancellation of certificate

The court should consider ordering forfeiture or disposal of any firearm or ammunition and the cancellation of any firearms certificate. Section 52 of the Firearms Act 1968 provides for the forfeiture and disposal of firearms and the cancellation of firearms and shotgun certificates where a person is convicted of this offence and is given a custodial sentence or a community order containing a requirement not to possess, use or carry a firearm.

Serious Crime Prevention Order

The court may consider the criteria in section 19 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 for the imposition of a Serious Crime Prevention Order.

Step 8 – Reasons

Section 52 of the Sentencing Code imposes a duty to give reasons for, and explain the effect of, the sentence.

Step 9 – Consideration for time spent on bail (tagged curfew)

The court must consider whether to give credit for time spent on bail in accordance with section 240A of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and section 325 of the Sentencing Code.