The Sentencing Council has launched a consultation on a new guideline for sentencing offenders convicted in England and Wales of importing prohibited or restricted firearms.

The guideline covers importation of firearms and ammunition under two Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 (CEMA) offences: sections 50 (improper importation of goods) and 170 (fraudulent evasion of prohibition/ restriction). It refers to types of weapons covered by sections 1, 5(1) and 5(1A) of the Firearms Act 1968.

The Council is proposing sentences of up to 28 years’ custody for the most serious cases, for example the large-scale importation of rapid-firing weapons for use in crime, and up to seven years for offences involving firearms that are less dangerous. The sentences depend on a number of factors including the type of gun imported, the role of the offender and the scale and nature of the importation. The less serious cases, typically involving importation of a stun gun with no criminal intent, may be sentenced in magistrates’ courts.

The consultation is seeking views on the draft guideline from judges, magistrates and others interested in this area of sentencing. It runs from 17 June 2021 to 8 September 2021.

There is currently no sentencing guideline for CEMA offences, and the proposed draft is a result of requests from the National Crime Agency and Crown Prosecution Service for a guideline to cover firearms importation offences.

The Council has issued eight sentencing guidelines for offences under the Firearms Act 1968, which came into effect on 1 January 2021: