The Sentencing Council for England and Wales has published new guidelines (‘the new guidelines’) for offences involving the possession of weapons and threats to use them.

Steven Micklewright of Kangs Solicitors provides an overview of the new guidelines.

Bladed Articles and Offensive Weapons | Kangs Criminal Defence Solicitors

The new guidelines cover the following offences;

  • Possession of an offensive weapon in a public place (section 1(1) Prevention of Crime Act 1953)
  • Possession of an article with blade/point in a public place (section 139(1) Criminal Justice Act 1988)
  • Possession of an offensive weapon on school premises (section 139A)(2) Criminal Justice Act 1988)
  • Possession of an article with blade/point school premises (section 139A(1) Criminal Justice Act 1988)
  • Unauthorised possession in prison of a knife or offensive weapon (section 40CA Prison Act 1952)

All of these offences are triable either before a Magistrates’ Court or a Crown Court and carry a maximum sentence of four years custody.

Applying the Sentencing Guidelines | Kangs Criminal Advisory Solicitors

STEP 1:

The first step is for the Court to identify the offence category. In doing so, the Court will assess both culpability and harm.

Culpability is divided into four categories and is demonstrated by one or more of the following;

Culpability

A) Possession of bladed article / Possession of highly dangerous weapon / Offence motivated by or demonstrating hostility based on any of the following characteristics or presumed characteristics of the victim: religion, race, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity.

B) Possession of weapon (other than a bladed article or a highly dangerous weapon) used to threaten or cause fear.

C) Possession of weapon (other than a bladed article or a highly dangerous weapon) not used to threaten or cause fear.

D) Possession of weapon falls just short of reasonable excuse.

An offensive weapon is defined as ‘any article made or adapted for use for causing injury, or is intended by the person having it with him for such use’.

A highly dangerous weapon is defined as ‘a weapon, including a corrosive substance (such as acid) whose dangerous nature must be substantially above and beyond this’.

It will be for the Court to determine whether the weapon is highly dangerous on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Harm

Category 1: Offence committed at a school or other place where vulnerable people are likely to be present / offence committed in prison / offence committed in circumstances where there is a risk of serious disorder / serious alarm and distress.

Category 2: All other cases.

STEP 2:

Having completed STEP 1 and identified the correct offence category, the Court should use the corresponding starting point to reach a sentence within the category range.

 

 

Culpability    
Harm A B C

D

 Category 1 Starting Point

1 year – 6 months

Starting Point

9 months

Starting Point

3 months

Starting Point

High Level CO

  Category Range

1 year – 2 years 6 months

Category Range

6 months – 1 year 6 months

Category Range

High Level CO – 6 months

Category Range

Medium Level CO – 3 months

 Category 2 Starting Point

6 months

Starting Point

High Level CO

Starting Point

Medium Level CO

Starting Point

Low Level CO

  Category Range

3 months – 1 year

Category Range

Medium Level CO – 6 months

Category Range

Low Level CO – High Level CO

Category Range

Band C fine –Medium Level CO

Having determined the appropriate category starting point, the Court will then consider whether there are any aggravating or mitigating factors that will result in either an upward or downward adjustment within the category range.

Previous convictions are likely to result in an upward adjustment. No previous convictions are likely to result in a downward adjustment.

STEP 3:

For all of the above offences (save for unauthorised possession in prison) the Court will impose a minimum sentence of at least 6 months where;

  1. This is a second or further relevant offence; unless
  2. The Court is of the opinion that there are particular circumstances relating to the offence, the previous offence or the offender which make it unjust to do so

A relevant offence is any of the offences listed above and any of the ‘threatening’ offences explained below.

STEP 4:

The Court should take into account whether an offender ought to receive a discounted sentence in consequence of assistance given or offered to the prosecutor or investigator.

STEP 5:

The Court should take account of any potential reduction for a guilty plea. Where a statutory minimum sentence has been imposed, the Court must ensure that any reduction does not reduce the sentence to less than 80% of the statutory minimum.

STEP 6:

Where sentencing an offender for more than one offence or where the offender is already a serving prisoner, the Court shall consider the principle of totality and whether the total sentence is just and proportionate to the overall offending.

STEP 7:

The Court shall consider any ancillary orders such as forfeiture and compensation.

Threats Involving Bladed Articles and Offensive Weapons | Kangs Solicitors

The new guidelines cover the following offences;

  • Threatening with an offensive weapon in a public place (section 1A) Prevention of Crime Act 1953
  • Threatening with an article with blade/point in a public place (section 139AA(1) Criminal Justice Act 1988)
  • Threatening with an offensive weapon on school premises (section 139A)(1) Criminal Justice Act 1988
  • Threatening with an article with blade/point school premises (section 139AA(1) Criminal Justice Act 1988)
  • Unauthorised possession in prison of a knife or offensive weapon (section 40CA Prison Act 1952)

All of these offences are triable either by a Magistrates’ Court or a Crown Court and all carry a maximum sentence of four years custody.

Applying the Sentencing Guidelines | Kangs Criminal Defence Solicitors

Unlike the possession offences listed above, the new guidelines for the threatening offences only have two levels of culpability (A – Higher Culpability) and (B – Lower Culpability).

Culpability

A)  Offence committed using a bladed article / offence committed using a highly dangerous weapon.

B) All other cases.

As with the Possession offences, the new guidelines set out two levels of Harm.

Harm
 Category 1 Offence committed at a school or other place where vulnerable people are likely to be present / offence committed in prison / offence committed in circumstances where there is a risk of serious disorder / serious alarm and distress / prolonged incident.
Category 2 All other cases.
  Culpability  
Harm A B
Category 1 Starting Point

2 years

Starting Point

1 year 6 months

  Category Range

1 year 6 months – 3 years

Category Range

1 – 2 years

 Category 2 Starting Point

15 months

Starting Point

6 months

 

Category Range

9 months – 2 years

Category Range

6 months – 1 year 6 months

The process for the purposes of sentencing thereafter is as set out above.

New Sentencing Guidelines | Bladed Articles | Kangs Criminal Solicitors

The proposed new guidelines have the clear objective of ensuring that people convicted of carrying knifes, in particular those carrying dangerous weapons, in addition to repeat offenders will receive higher sentences, not least with the introduction of minimum terms.

Under the new guidelines, the Court must impose a minimum sentence of 6 months for all of the threatening offences.

The new guidelines apply to both adults and those under 18 but, in relation to those under 18, the new guidelines will also work alongside the Sentencing Children and Young Persons guideline.

As set out above, there have been structural changes to the categorisation of both culpability and harm.

In order to demonstrate the seriousness of this type of offending, additional categories of culpability have been added to the possession offences and the levels of harm have been simplified.

The new guidelines will come into force in the 1st June 2018.

How Can We Help? | Kangs Criminal Defence Solicitors

Kangs Solicitors have a wealth of knowledge and experience in dealing with all matters of possession of offensive weapons and bladed articles.

Given the complexity of many sentencing council guidelines, it is important that your solicitor is fully conversant with all aspects of the new guidelines when considering to the circumstances of your case.

Who Can I Contact For Help? | Kangs National Criminal Defence Solicitors

Please feel free to contact our team through any of the solicitors named below who will be happy to provide you with some initial advice and assistance.

Suki Randhawa
srandhawa@kangssolicitors.co.uk
0121 449 9888 | 020 7936 6396

Helen Holder
hholder@kangssolicitors.co.uk
0121 449 9888 | 020 7936 6396

Steven Micklewright
smicklewright@kangssolicitors.co.uk
0121 449 9888 | 020 7936 6396