General Guideline: Overarching principles; Expanded Explanations; and Consultation for the Guideline for Firearms Offences

Emily Landale introduces you to the new guideline “for when there are no guidelines” and to yet another consultation for a new guideline. This time, it’s guns that are in the firing-line.

Emily Landale Barrister

The General Guideline came into force on the 1st October 2019. It is designed so that a structured and consistent approach to sentencing is followed even where there is no offence-specific guideline in place. The new guideline replaces the 2004 Seriousness guideline.

New offences, or less common offences now have a 10-step guideline of overarching principles aimed at ensuring all relevant factors are considered in sentencing. The guidance can also be used in conjunction with offence-specific guidelines where some factors are not included, and more overarching guidance is required.

Under the new guidance, the first step is to determine a provisional sentence. To do so, the user is referred to the statutory maximum, and where relevant minimum, sentence for the offence, sentencing judgments of the Court of Appeal and where applicable, offence-specific guidelines of analogous offences. The guidance is clear that care must be taken when using guidelines for analogous offences. Making adjustments for any difference in maximum sentence and elements of the offence is not just a mathematical exercise. 

The guidance is written with the same stepped approach used in offence-specific guidelines and the stepped approach should be followed where possible. Likewise, the seriousness of the offence is assessed by considering first the culpability of the offender and then the harm of the offending, just like the other guidelines.

Step 2 involves consideration of aggravating and mitigating factors. The guidance provides an extensive though non-exhaustive list of factors to consider. These are, unsurprisingly, very general but are seemingly all encompassing.

The extensive list of factors is further enhances by the new ‘expanded explanations’ which supplement the General guideline.

Enhanced Explanations

The Sentencing Council has also published ‘expanded explanations’ which are now embedded into the existing offence specific guidelines. The expanded explanations provide additional information to any aggravating and mitigating factors listed in a guideline. The Sentencing Council says that this extra information will make it easier for courts to maintain consistency and transparency when sentencing.

Some of the explanations are based upon case law, and some provide information from existing overarching guidelines, allowing those sentencing to be aware of the relevant considerations.

Sentencing Guideline for Firearms Offences (Consultation)

Draft guidelines for sentencing firearms offences have now been published and the consultation runs from the 9th October to the 14th January.

It is hoped that the guideline will ensure consistency in sentencing and that unlawful possession of firearms is sentenced at the appropriate level.

The following 8 offences under the Firearms Act 1968 are covered:

  1. Possession, purchase or acquisition of a prohibited weapon or ammunition
  2. Possession, purchase or acquisition of a firearm/ammunition/shotgun without a certificate
  3. Possession of a firearm or ammunition by person with previous convictions prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition
  4. Carrying a firearm in a public place
  5. Possession of firearm with intent to endanger life
  6. Possession of firearm or imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence
  7. 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
  8. Manufacture/sell or transfer/possess for sale or transfer/purchase or acquire for sale or transfer prohibited weapon or ammunition

Access the public consultation here

Emily Landale has a common law practice of both criminal and family law.

To instruct her in criminal matters, please contact the Criminal clerking team by telephone or by email.

To instruct Emily in family matters, please contact the Family Clerk by telephone or by email.