New sentencing guidelines have been issued for firearms offences. These guidelines will take effect from 1 January 2021 and relate to a variety of offences including the possession, purchase or acquisition of a prohibited firearm.
Have you been accused of a firearms offence? Our criminal defence solicitors can help you. We help those who have been linked to firearms offences, starting with free police station representation. Contact us now for free legal advice. We are able to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
What are the sentencing guidelines?
Sentencing guidelines provide judges and magistrates with information on how to sentence an offender. They are non-binding, meaning they do not have to be followed to a tee. However, they should only be set aside if it is in the interests of justice to do so.
Why are new sentencing guidelines needed for firearms offences?
Until now, there have been little-to-no sentencing guidelines for firearms offences. This has raised concerns that there is a lack of consistency in sentencing. This is problematic because although firearms offences are rare, they are considered to be serious.
What has changed?
Following a consultation, new guidelines have been published for firearms offences. These will take effect from 1 January 2021. The new guidelines relate to the following eight offences:
- Possession, purchase or acquisition of a prohibited firearm or ammunition
- Possession, purchase or acquisition of a firearm/ammunition/shotgun without a certificate
- Possession of a firearm or ammunition by a person with previous convictions prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition
- Carrying a firearm in a public place
- Possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life
- Possession of firearm or imitation firearm with intent to cause fear or 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 intent
- Manufacture/sell or transfer/possess for sale or transfer/purchase or acquire for sale or transfer prohibited weapon or ammunition
The consultation raised certain issues relating to the sentencing of firearms offences, some of which have been addressed in the guidelines.
For example, the Sentencing Council found that ethnic minorities typically receive harsher penalties when convicted of a firearms offence. The guidelines have therefore asked sentences to remain aware of this, and are reminded to follow the information set out in the Equal Treatment Bench Book.
Furthermore, the issue of culpability was investigated, particularly in relation to vulnerable defendants. There is a significant difference between a person who does not know he is holding a firearm and a person who holds a firearm knowing that it is to be used in criminal activity. The guidelines reflect this, addressing situations in which there is no use, or intention to use, the firearm.
Will there be further changes in the future?
Yes, a further set of guidance is to be consulted on next year in respect of firearm importation offences. This could result in further changes in the future.
Firearms offences are relatively rare in England and Wales, but they are treated very seriously by the courts. If you have been linked to a firearms offence, you must speak to our criminal defence solicitors. We offer free legal advice and police station representation.
The new sentencing guidelines could impact your case. If so, we will advise you accordingly, adapting our defence strategy to secure the best possible outcome.
Call us now on 0333 009 6275. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.