New sentencing guidelines for firearms offences

The Sentencing Council has created new guidelines for the sentencing of criminal offences involving the possession and use of firearms which came into force on 1st January 2021. Experienced criminal lawyers will be aware this is the first time there have been sentencing guidelines specifically for firearms offences. Sentencing of such offences will no longer be governed by the principles set out in the case of Avis and other key judgements. The sentencing guidelines create a series of tiers for 8 key offences under the Firearms Act and a far more systematic and codified approach to the sentencing process in such cases, allowing for greater account to be taken of mitigating factors. They represent a sea change in sentencing policy for firearms offences, ensuring that ‘real criminals’ who use firearms and ammunition in criminal activity, or who clearly possess them with nefarious intent, continue to be punished appropriately severely, whilst others who commit technical or inadvertent breaches of the Firearms Acts are shown greater leniency. If you are a criminal lawyer who deals with offences involving firearms, whether defending or prosecuting, and whether as an advocate in court or as the solicitor preparing cases and advising your client, the Sentencing Guidelines are essential reading. They can be found here.