Draft guidelines for sentencing offenders for the most commonly sentenced firearms offences have been published 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

“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

Mrs Justice Maura McGowan, Sentencing Council member