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Section 1 Firearms Act 1968

Date Updated: January 2012

Title: Firearms

Offence: Possession of a Firearm/Ammunition without a certificate

Legislation: s1 Firearms Act 1968

Commencement Date:

Mode of Trial: TEW

Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty:

  • Possession of a firearm or ammunition without certificate is triable either way
  • Summary - 6 months/maximum fine
  • On indictment - when aggravated (see section 4(4)) 7 years, otherwise 5 years.
  • Failure to comply with a condition of a certificate is triable only summarily - 6 months/level 5 fine

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors

R v Avis [1998] 1 Cr.App.R. 420, CA.

The sentencing court should usually ask itself four questions:

  1. What sort of weapon was involved? Genuine firearms were more dangerous than imitation firearms; loaded firearms were more dangerous than unloaded firearms. Unloaded firearms for which ammunition was available were more dangerous than firearms for which no ammunition was available. Possession of a firearm for which there was no lawful use (such as a sawn-off shotgun) would be viewed more seriously than possession of a firearm which was capable of lawful use.
  2. What use had been made of the firearm? It was necessary for the court to take account of all the circumstances surrounding the use of the firearm: the more prolonged and premeditated and violent the use, the more serious the offence was likely to be.
  3. With what intention (if any) did the defendant possess or use the firearm? The most serious offences under the Act required proof of a specific intent. The more serious the act intended, the more serious the offence.
  4. What was the defendant's record? The seriousness of any firearms offence was inevitably increased if the offender had an established record of committing firearms offences or crimes of violence.

Relevant sentencing Guidelines (If any)

See R v Avis above

Relevant Sentencing Case Law

Hudson [1998] 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 124
G plea to possessing a firearm without a certificate. D arrested on suspicion of assault. On searching his house police find a loaded sawn-off shotgun and cartridges. D said he bought the gun for protection. It was established the gun had never been fired.  5 years reduced to 4 years imprisonment.

Addison [1998] 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 119
G plea to possessing a firearm without certificate x 4, possession of a shortened firearm without a certificate x 2 and possession of ammunition without a certificate. Police search of D's work place and home address resulted in finds of six firearms in working order and ammunition. 5 years to 4 years imprisonment.

Holmes [1999] 2 Cr.App.R.(S.) 383
G plea before a magistrates' court possession of a firearm whilst a prohibited person, possession of a shortened shotgun without a certificate, and possession of a loaded shotgun in a public place. Police find a loaded sawn off shotgun and ammunition in a hire car that was traced back to D. Sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment.

Herbert [2001] 1Cr.App.R.(S.) 21
G plea to possessing a shortened shotgun and to possessing a firearm before expiration of five years from release form prison. A search a D's address revealed a sawn-off shotgun hidden in a bed with a number of live cartridges. D claimed to be 'minding' items for a man he was terrified of and received £50. At Newton hearing, basis rejected. 4 years imprisonment upheld although there was no evidence of any contemplated offence the court was entitled to assume that it was for an unlawful use should the occasion arise

Beaumont [2004] 1 Cr.App.R.(S) 393
G plea in the Magistrates' Court to possessing a firearm without a certificate, ammunition without a certificate and possession of cannabis. Police search of D's house and D seen to conceal a package that contained a single barrel 12 bore shotgun with barrel cut down. 23 cartridges also found. D said bought them for £100 and intended to wall mount gun. Held that there was nothing to suggest intention to use items in a violent way. 3 years reduced to 2 years imprisonment.

Scully [2006] EWCA Crim 466
G plea  to possession of a firearm without a certificate x 2, possession of ammunition without a certificate, possession of expanding ammunition  and possession of Class A and C drugs. Police had arrested D at his home address in relation to another matter when they find firearms, ammunition and drugs. Also found was a silencer. A sentence of three years imposed.

R. v Flitter [2010] 1 Cr.App.R.(S.) 85

The appellant pleaded guilty before a magistrates' court to possessing a shortened shotgun without a firearms certificate, contrary to the Firearms Act 1968 s s.1 (1A) and 4(4). He was committed to the Crown Court for sentence. Police officers executing a search warrant at the appellant's home found a gun split into three pieces, each wrapped in a towel, in a carrier bag concealed within a boarded-up fireplace, which was in turn hidden behind a wardrobe. In an outbuilding, officers found a box of shotgun ammunition although this could not have been used in the shotgun concerned. The shotgun was found to be in poor condition but in working order. The appellant pleaded guilty on the basis that he had purchased the shotgun lawfully in the 1980s when he had a firearms certificate. Following a conviction for possession of cannabis, the firearms certificate was revoked. The appellant surrendered one shotgun to the police but did not surrender the second gun because he forgotten about its existence. When he later came across the gun, he had not handed it in to the police as he was afraid he might be arrested. He cut the shotgun into pieces with a hacksaw to make it inoperable rather than to make it more dangerous. 24 months imprisonment upheld.

Ancillary Orders:

  • Forfeiture orders
  • Destruction orders

Consider Also:

  • The effect of TICs and totality principle

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