New sentencing guidelines for firearms offences published today by the Sentencing Council

The Sentencing Council has published eight new guidelines to be used by the Crown Court and magistrates’ courts in England and Wales when sentencing firearms offences, following consultation. The new guidelines will come into effect on 1 January 2021.   Currently, there is only one guideline for use in magistrates’ courts – that of carrying a firearm in a public place – and none for the Crown Court. The guidelines will give the courts the tools they need to ensure a consistent approach to sentencing these serious and complex offences and make the sentencing process more transparent and easy to follow for victims, witnesses and the public. Firearm offences are complex and can result in serious harm to victims. Some offences carry life imprisonment, others carry sentences of up to 10 years and some require minimum sentences of five years.   Analysis conducted by the Council in preparation for the guidelines suggests there are disparities in sentence outcomes for some firearms offences based on ethnicity. The Council has taken measures in the guidelines to address this, including drawing sentencers’ attention to evidence of sentencing disparities in specific offences as an integral part of the sentencing process. The Council is committed to continuing to investigate apparent disparity in sentencing outcomes across all offences and will take further action as and when there is evidence of effective measures that can be applied to guidelines.   The eight new guidelines cover the offences below under the Firearms Act 1968: press notice can be found on the Sentencing Council website.