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Firearms: Sentencing

Volume 485: debated on Thursday 18 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many and what percentage of people convicted of carrying an illegal firearm under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 received the mandatory sentence established by the Act in each of the last five years, broken down by age group; and what the average length of sentence of those convicted of carrying an illegal firearm under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 was in each of the last five years. (244796)

The requested information is shown in the following table:

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 prescribed mandatory minimum custodial sentences for the offences of: Possessing or distributing prohibited firearms or ammunition and Possessing or distributing firearm disguised as other object where the offences were committed on or after the 26 January 2004.

The minimum sentence it set was three years where the offender was aged between 16 and 18 at the time of the offence and five years for offenders aged over 18 at the time of the offence.

Data held by the Ministry of Justice cannot determine the date the offence took place or the age of the offender at the time of the offence rather it is the date the sentence was passed and the age of the offender at the time of sentencing that is held.

Data provided in this answer shows all offenders given the mandatory minimum from 2005-07, while not all offenders sentenced in 2005 would have been eligible for the mandatory minimum it is not possible to separately identify those cases that occurred prior to 26 January 2004.

Those offenders in the juvenile (10 to 17-years-old) age band are all assumed to be eligible for the three-year mandatory minimum, similarly those in the adult age band (21+) are all assumed to be eligible for the five-year mandatory minimum, those offenders in the young adult age band (18-20) could potentially have been eligible for either minimum sentence so the numbers given between three and five years and over five years have been shown separately.

Persons sentenced for firearms offences liable for mandatory minimum custodial sentence as prescribed by the Criminal Justice Act 20031, 2003-07

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Juveniles

Total sentenced

69

60

36

17

16

Immediate custody

10

12

9

8

7

Received mandatory minimum3

2n/a

2n/a

4

5

2

Offenders sentenced receiving mandatory minimum (Percentage)

n/a

n/a

11.1

29.4

12.5

ACSL4

11.2

22.7

26.0

29.8

30.6

Young adults

Total sentenced

121

122

59

46

40

Immediate custody

23

35

34

31

32

Received mandatory minimum—at least three years5

2n/a

2n/a

7

14

15

Received mandatory minimum—at least five years5

2n/a

2n/a

18

10

9

Offenders sentenced receiving mandatory minimum (Percentage)

n/a

n/a

42.4

52.2

60.0

ACSL4

18.6

39.5

45.5

43.6

42.1

Adults

Total sentenced

713

564

294

217

208

Immediate custody

183

205

199

173

171

Received mandatory minimum6

2n/a

2n/a

124

126

132

Offenders sentenced receiving mandatory minimum (Percentage)

n/a

n/a

42.2

58.1

63.5

ACSL4

29.3

35.3

48.6

54.0

56.3

1 Offences under Firearms Act 1968 of: Possessing or distributing prohibited weapons or ammunition, or Possessing or distributing firearm disguised as other object. 2 The mandatory is applicable only for offences that occurred on or after 26 January 2004. 3 Mandatory minimum for persons aged under 18 at time of offence and for offences taking place after 26 January 2004 is three years. 4 Average custodial sentence length (months) excludes life and indeterminate sentences. 5 Mandatory minimum is dependant on age at the time of the offence. Data held by the Ministry of Justice only shows age at time of sentence so offenders in this age group could have been liable for three or five years. Offenders have not been double counted. 6 Mandatory minimum for persons aged over 18 at time of offence and for offences taking place after 26 January 2004 is five years. 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: OMS Analytical Services, Ministry of Justice.