Skip to main content

Firearms Act 1968: Convictions

Volume 474: debated on Thursday 3 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice pursuant to the answer of 28 February 2008, Official Report, columns 1924-26W, on the Firearms Act 1968: convictions, what proportion of those convicted of offences under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 of (a) all ages and (b) aged 18 and over were sentenced to immediate custody in each year from 1997 to 2005. (191898)

The following table shows what proportion of those convicted of offences under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 of (a) all ages and (b) aged 18 and over, were sentenced to immediate custody in each year from 1997 to 2005.

The Courts Proceedings Database records five offences under section 5 of the Act. For two of the offences there is a mandatory minimum penalty:

‘possessing or distributing prohibited weapons or ammunition’ under section 5(1) (a), (b), (aba), (ac), (ad), (ae), (af) or (c) of the Firearms Act 1968, as amended by section 288 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

‘possessing or distributing firearm disguised as other object’ under section 5(1A)(a) of the Firearms Act 1968, also as amended by section 288 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

The mandatory minimum is five years for those aged 18 and over, and three years for those aged 16-17. The mandatory minimum came into affect in January 2004, and does not apply to those persons who committed offences before this date. The maximum penalty for these offences is 10 years.

The following figures are taken from the Ministry of Justice (formerly Home Office) Court Proceedings Database and relate to sentences imposed (including life and indeterminate sentences) and the average sentence length of immediate custody (excluding life and indeterminate sentences) for those sentenced for such offences where the principal offence is the one for which they were found guilty. When a defendant has been found guilty of two or more offences, it is the offence for which the heaviest penalty is imposed. Where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the offence for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe. Where a person is convicted on the same occasion of a firearms offences, and one such as homicide, conspiracy, robbery or GBH with intent (218 of OPA 1861) where the maximum is higher, the data in respect of the firearms offence will not have been included in the following table.

The Lord Chief Justice and I have concerns about the quality of the data relating to mandatory minima. An earlier project was undertaken that looked at cases reported to the Court Proceedings Database during the first six months of 2006 where the mandatory sentence was not given to persons aged 18 and over. These cases were checked with the Crown courts concerned. Of 65 cases, 12 were found to have the offence incorrectly classified (although two were still subject to the five-year sentence). A further case had the custody duration recorded as five months instead of five years. Some 17 per cent. of Crown court cases checked, therefore, had the wrong offence classification. The majority correctly reflect the offence and court outcome although in few cases were the courts able to say whether exceptional circumstances, as allowed for in the Criminal Justice Act, had been the reason for the five-year sentence not being imposed. Among reasons quoted were ‘gun incapable of being fired’, ‘defendant clinically depressed’, ‘technical breach only’ and ‘defendant too young for imprisonment’.

The Ministry of Justice is now looking to see if the situation has improved by looking at data from the first six months of 2007.

Offenders sentenced1 under section 5 of the Firearms Act (1986)

Section 5 of the Firearms Act (1986)

Sentenced (Number)

Immediate custody (Number)

Proportion (Percentage)

All ages

1997

785

107

14

1998

1,040

171

16

1999

813

138

17

2000

738

143

19

2001

745

131

18

2002

789

176

22

2003

903

216

24

2004

1,055

283

27

2005

1,115

318

29

Age 18 and over

1997

744

103

14

1998

995

169

17

1999

764

136

18

2000

694

139

20

2001

677

129

19

2002

718

166

23

2003

834

206

25

2004

975

270

28

2005

1,031

306

30

1 Principal offence basis.

Offences under section 5 are:

Possessing or distributing prohibited weapons or ammunition;

Possessing or distributing prohibited weapons designed for discharge of noxious liquid etc.;

Possessing or distributing firearm disguised as other object; and

Possessing or distributing other prohibited weapons.

Note:

These figures have been drawn from administrative data systems. Although care is taken when processing and analysing the returns, the detail collected is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large-scale recording system.

Source:

RDS-NOMS, Ministry of Justice.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice pursuant to the answer of 28 February 2008, Official Report, column 1924W, on Firearms Act 1968: convictions, how many people over the age of 18 years were convicted under Section 1 of the Firearms Act 1968 in each of the last 12 months; and what proportion of those were sentenced to immediate custody. (196567)

The information requested on convictions and sentences under section 1 of the Firearms Act 1968 is provided in the table.

The mandatory minimum for firearms offences does not apply to offences under section 1 of the Act.

The figures in the table are taken from the Ministry of Justice (formerly Home Office) Court Proceedings Database and relate to sentences imposed (including life and indeterminate sentences) and the average sentence length of immediate custody (excluding life and indeterminate sentences) for those sentenced for such offences where the principal offence is the one for which they were found guilty. When a defendant has been found guilty of two or more offences it is the offence for which the heaviest penalty is imposed. Where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the offence for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe. Where a person is convicted on the same occasion of a firearms offences, and one such as homicide, conspiracy, robbery or GBH with intent (218 of OPA 1861) where the maximum is higher, the data in respect of the firearms offence will not have been included in the following table.

Number of defendants aged 18 and over found guilty at all courts, sentenced and sentenced to immediate custody for offences under section 1 of the Firearms Act 1968, by month, England and Wales 20061,2,3,4

Found guilty3

Sentenced3

Of those sentenced:Percentage sentenced to immediate custody

January

17

18

50

February

14

15

53

March

21

22

23

April

23

19

42

May

15

17

18

June

17

16

25

July

22

23

26

August

12

12

33

September

11

11

18

October

19

16

25

November

29

28

36

December

19

14

29

Total

219

211

32

1 These data are on the principal offence basis.

2 Section 1 of the Firearms act 1968 covers offences of Non-compliance with conditions of a firearm certificate and possessing a firearm or ammunition without a firearm certificate.

3 The number found guilty may differ from the number sentenced due to the inclusion of people found guilty in a magistrates court but sentenced in the Crown court. For such people, magistrates courts records were used to determine the numbers found guilty and Crown court records were used to determine the numbers sentenced. Hence the dates of the two events would differ.

4 Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.

Source:

court proceedings database—Office for Criminal Justice Reform—Ministry of Justice