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Illegal firearms importers set to face 28 year jail terms

Offenders found guilty of importing illegal firearms could be jailed for up to 28 years under new proposals.

A consultation by the Sentencing Council has been opened to toughen tariffs for the importation of weapons.

If passed, the new jail terms would cover cases covering rapid firing weapons and multiple consignments.

It’s becoming an issue for forces and the National Crime Agency because offenders are attempting to ship into the UK weapons that can either be converted or are legally for sale in EU countries.

Some are imported using couriers or parcel post and are now regularly intercepted by the NCA.

A London-based gang was found guilty last month of importing weapons following an NCA investigation. Three guns and ammunition were recovered.

Jacque Beer, NCA Regional Head of Investigations, said: “The seriousness of gun crime cannot be underestimated. Had we not intercepted these weapons they would have been used to kill, threaten and intimidate others.”

Currently, there are no specific sentencing guidelines for these offences and the proposed changes are the result of requests from the National Crime Agency and Crown Prosecution Office.

The Sentencing Council said the new guideline, when it comes into effect, will ensure the courts take “a consistent approach” to sentencing and that proportionate sentences are imposed for the unlawful importation of firearms.

The proposed guideline covers importation of firearms and ammunition under two Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 offences - improper importation of goods and fraudulent evasion of prohibition/restriction.

The new guideline, which applies to adult offenders, proposes sentences of up to 28 years’ custody for the most serious cases.

The proposed sentences would depend on a number of factors including the type of gun imported, the role of the offender and the scale and nature of the importation. The less serious cases, typically involving importation of a stun gun with no criminal intent, may be sentenced in magistrates’ courts.

The consultation runs from 17 June 2021 to 8 September 2021.

Sentencing Council member Mrs Justice Maura McGowan said: “Firearms offences are treated seriously; the more firearms there are in circulation, the greater the risk of death or serious injury.

"We recently consulted on and published sentencing guidelines for a range of firearms offences, and one of the themes that came out of that consultation was that a sentencing guideline for firearms importation offences would also be useful.

She added: “The draft firearms importation guideline proposes a range of sentences to reflect the varied nature of offending and to ensure a consistent approach to sentencing. We welcome views on the proposals.”

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