Firearms cases invariably bring into sharp focus societal issues. So much so, that in 2020 the Sentencing Guidelines Council (the body which provides guidelines to Judges in respect of sentencing) felt it necessary to issue a specific reminder to Sentencing Judges to be aware of the significant racial disparity that had been found in sentences imposed for firearms offences. The strict liability of some firearms offences can mean particularly harsh results for the young and vulnerable within certain communities.
The possession and use of firearms can be entirely lawful. It is an area dense in legislation and licensing requirements where an innocent person can find themselves facing criminal charges through misunderstandings of law and procedure. A person purchasing items at a car boot sale believing them to be of historical interest for example, may now find themselves facing charges for possession of ammunition. Those who collect antique weapons, or who use firearms for sporting pursuits need to be extremely careful not to fall foul of the law.
Issues of joint responsibility and the legal principles underpinning them can also be particularly acute in cases involving the alleged use of firearms by one person in a group. The extent to which others are liable for their actions is almost always open to argument, both factually and legally.
Finally; the importance of consideration of expert evidence being obtained in a timely manner cannot be overstated. The legal definitions and legislation mean that on occasion it may not be possible to responsibly advise someone how they should plead in respect of the charges without an expert undertaking an examination of the relevant item.