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Sentencing for Firearms Offences

What is the sentence for Firearms Offences in 2024?

Firearms offences are serious crimes and can result in very hefty and lengthy terms of imprisonment. A firearm is any barrelled weapon that can discharge a bullet, missile or shot.

Firearms Offences

Most firearms offences are based on the Firearms Act 1968. In section 1 of the act, it clearly states that it’s a crime to possess a firearm or certain types of ammunition without holding a certificate.

Other firearms offences can range from failing to comply with the conditions of a permit of a firearms collector’s club which could result in 2 years imprisonment, to possessing a shotgun without a shotgun certificate which may result in an imprisonment between twelve months and 5 years.

Being involved in a firearms investigation can be a very stressful experience. The most worrying part is knowing that the case could go to court and conclude with an outcome of a prison sentence. Imprisonment of any length means separation from your family and loved ones.

The reality of this is that most people accused of firearms have no history of being on the wrong side of the law or of being in prison. For them, the concept of going to jail is terrifying.

Read more information about the offence of Firearms offences

What type of actions are considered Firearm Offences?

If you or somebody close to you has been charged or arrested in connection with possessing or using firearms, you will most likely feel very stressed, worried and concerned about what is going to happen legally.

Here are some examples of firearms offences that may have led to the situation at hand.

Illegal possession of a firearm – an example of this is when there is possession of any gun or ammunition or prohibited weapon without a certificate.

Possession of an imitation firearm – this charge can be applied if you possess anything that has the appearance of a gun.

Criminal use of a firearm – this charge includes carrying a gun to endanger life, cause fear or to resist arrest or prevent the capture or arrest of another.

Illegal conversion of weapons – including the shortening of a shotgun barrel below a certain length and converting something into a weapon.

Illegal importation of weapons – this charge includes receiving goods that have been removed from a warehouse or Queen’s warehouse unlawfully, receiving products that have not had duty paid on them and receiving products that are prohibited or restricted.

Possession of a firearm with the intent to cause fear or violence – to be convicted of this offence, you don’t need to have caused harm, you need to intend to cause fear.

There are other items that if found in your possession, you may be charged with firearms offences. These include component parts of a weapon or anything that can be adapted to reduce the noise of a weapon being fired.

To put your mind at ease, we have detailed what the outcome might be from being convicted of a firearms offence. However, it’s important to note that the guidance of an experienced solicitor may reduce a prison sentence or even avoid it entirely.

What is the average sentence for firearms offences?

Firearms offences are very serious, but they may not result in a prison sentence every time. If you take the right steps, you may even get your case dismissed before it progresses to court.

The sentence you receive upon conviction of these type of offences will depend upon how serious your offence was. For example, the minimum prison sentence for firearms offences is five years for an adult and three years for a 16 or 17-year-old.

The maximum prison sentence for firearms offences is typically ten years, but if other crimes are involved, then it could even be life imprisonment.

Further examples of sentences of firearms sentencing: – for trading firearms without being a registered firearms dealer you could be given a sentence of anywhere between 6 months and 5 years, as would be the case for testing or repairing a firearm without holding a certificate. Those who shorten a shotgun or convert a firearm in any way may be given a sentence of 6 months or 7 years, potentially with a fine.

You may have been falsely charged with firearms offences if you possess an antique or ornamental gun that is pre 1939.

If this is you, then we recommend that you take the advice of a competent and experienced criminal solicitor as soon as possible. The earlier you take action to find the right solicitor, the earlier you will be able to work with them on getting your name cleared, and the case dismissed.

How does a court decide on the seriousness of the firearms offence for sentencing purposes? 

There are typically four main questions asked when deciding how to sentence a convicted firearms offender. These are:

  • What type of weapon was involved?There is a different between an imitation weapon and a genuine weapon and an unloaded and a loaded weapon. Possession of firearms that have no lawful purpose such as a sawn-off shotgun can lead to a heavy penalty. Possession of firearms for which there is no ammunition available will typically involve a lighter sentence.
  • Was the firearm used, if so, for what?If there was premeditated use of the weapon, then the offence will be more serious.
  • When did the defendant possess the firearm, for what intention?The more premeditated and violent, and the more prolonged, the more serious the offence is likely to be.
  • What is the defendant’s previous history with crime?If there is an established record of committing violence of other offences, then the seriousness is increased.

What mitigating factors may be used for a firearms offence when it comes to sentencing?

Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following are some of the other factors considered when the court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • Your previous conviction
  • Your level of remorse
  • Your level of cooperation with the investigation
  • Whether the activity you took part in was originally legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any serious medical conditions that require long term, urgent or intensive treatment
  • Whether you have a learning disability or a mental disorder
  • Whether you are the sole or primary carer for related dependents

Is it possible to reduce a sentence for firearms offences with a guilty plea?

In recent years, a number of changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.

  • ‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.
  • If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure; although the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge who has discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.
  • After these times there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the ten percent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.
  • If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s important for the solicitor to regularly inform the court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.

What are some of the other consequences of a firearms offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of an offence. These are extra elements that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that affect a dependent’s finances, property or activity.

Ancillary orders that are typically added to the penalty for those who are found to be guilty of firearms offences include:

  • Destruction of the firearm
  • Victim compensation
  • Confiscation orders

As part of your investigation, you may also have your assets frozen with the possibility of having cash or other assets seized.

In addition, the court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:

Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors

Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:

  • The work done in obtaining sufficient evidence for prosecution either at the initial stage or later at the request of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Seeking medical or expert evidence as part of the investigation, (where a witness is required to attend Court, the cost of the attendance falls on the CPS).
  • Re-interviewing witnesses
  • The entire costs of the prosecutor, including fees for the use of external Barristers used by the CPS, can be recovered from the defendant, subject to means. At the end of the case, the prosecutor under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 will request the Judge to order a sum to be paid for the costs incurred by the prosecutor in bringing the prosecution.

Victims surcharges

The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.

How sentences can be added to national information databases

There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC).  Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.

If your case progresses to court and you are convicted of firearms offences, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.

Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.

Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence is never spent Sentence is never spent
Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years Sentence length 7 years Sentence length 3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months) Sentence length +4 years Sentence length +2 years
Prison sentences of less than 6 months Sentence length + 2 years Sentence length +18 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

As a result of our reputation as a large and effective criminal defence solicitor’s firm, we have a well established record at defending in firearms offence cases. This includes cases of trading, imitation firearms, possessing, converting, using and importing.

It’s crucial that you are correctly legally represented when you first receive the letter inviting you to the Interview Under Caution. By doing so, we will typically get you a good result. In some cases, a client will come to us after the interview. Although it can often be more difficult, but not impossible, for us to get that good result in these cases.

Our firearms solicitors will focus on developing the defences available in allegations of firearms offences. Was the firearm lethal as defined by the law? We will instruct renowned firearms experts to analyse the firearm and ensure the prosecution is brought within the confines of the law. If it is not, we will challenge the Charges to have them dismissed.

In addition to the above listed offences, we can also defend allegations of possession of ammunition and firearm without a certificate, holding or transporting a firearm and any other related offences. We have deep experience in every firearms offence and can provide the support you need to get the most favourable outcome.

Furthermore, we encounter Firearms Offences Allegations involving young persons. Charges are often Possession of an Imitation Firearm in a Public Place Without Lawful authority and acquisition or hire of firearms which is unlawful for those under the age of 18 in any event.

What will happen when I instruct a firearms lawyer?

Our firearms lawyers will establish whether the firearm was registered, was traded by a licensed trader, was involved in previous crimes and then ensure these crimes are detached from you. We will investigate the capacity of the firearm and instruct ballistics experts to establish whether the firearm was even capable of firing.

In this complex area of law which attracts very serious and lengthy terms of imprisonment, we will do everything in our power to achieve the best outcome for you. We will engage specialist Barristers or QC’s with a track record and obvious knowledge defending firearms offences.

We also have expert witnesses available to us who will be able to collect evidence to support your innocence.

What should you do if you get arrested or charged with Firearms Offences?

In every case, the police will make an arrest and interview you to document your account on an interview tape. This interview becomes vital evidence and the prosecution will rely on this to prove you to be a liar or to show inconsistencies in what you have said. It is vital that you instruct our firearms lawyers who have expertise in defending firearms offences from the very beginning of the case. We will ensure you make informed decisions and follow our expert advice to protect your best interests and preserve your position at any forthcoming trial.

Under no circumstances should you attend the police station without being accompanied by a qualified legal professional. The police will be attempting to gain a conviction and will use interviewing tactics to achieve this.

The police undergo training in how to ask questions that can lead to you incriminating yourself. It’s your right to take a lawyer with you to the police interview. The advantage of choosing the right lawyer is that they can put the police under pressure to complete their investigation so that you can return to your everyday life. Besides, the lawyer can ask if there is any other evidence against you so that a robust defence strategy can be created for all evidence.

The police will typically be looking to secure a search warrant from a magistrate’s court or a judge. The search warrant will be used to search your home and possibly your work premises. The police may confiscate any electronic communication devices that you use such as a phone, smartphone, tablet or computer. Your devices will be searched and analysed to secure further evidence to support the prosecutor’s case against you.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

If you’d like to have a no-obligation chat with us before you instruct us to take your case, then call us today.

Please contact our firearms offences solicitors to arrange your meeting, whether face to face, online or by telephone. If you prefer, you can also send us a WhatsApp message using the link in the bottom banner if you are viewing this page on a mobile phone device.

Get in touch with us now for firearms offences legal help.


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