Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED August 4, 2003

Sentence of three years' imprisonment for possession of a sawn-off shot gun and ammunition was substituted for one of two years on the grounds that the appellant lacked any intent to use the firearm for criminal acts.Appeal from a sentence of three years' imprisonment imposed on the appellant ('B'). On 22 December 2002 the police executed a search warrant at B's property. He was found in possession of a sawn-off shotgun, 23 live cartridges, and a quantity of cannabis. B pleaded guilty to offences of: (i) possession of a firearm without a certificate; (ii) possession of ammunition without a certificate; and (iii) possession of a Class B drug, namely cannabis. His case was always that he had bought the gun and cartridges together and that is intention was to mount the gun on the wall at his home. He denied any cruel intent to use the gun. He was sentenced to 3 years for the possession of the gun, 18 months for the possession of the cartridges and 28 days for the possession of drugs both to run concurrent. On appeal he argued, inter alia, that the imposition of 3 years for the firearm offence was excessive given that there was no evidence of criminal intent, nor was there evidence of paraphernalia to show theft.HELD: (1) What the court was required to look at in offences of this nature were the weapon itself, the use made of the weapon, and the intent that the appellant had for its possession. There was no doubt that the possession of a sawn-off shotgun was a serious offence. However, there was no evidence that the weapon in the instant case had been used for criminal activities, and it was B's case that he had possession of it merely to mount it on his wall. (2) The authorities demonstrated that three years' imprisonment was a high sentence for this particular offence, and, given the circumstances of the instant case, namely, B's good character, the lack of criminal intent, that the gun had not been used in the past and B had no intention to use it himself for violent acts, three years was excessive. Taking into account also B's early plea, the fact that he had a young family and his good prison record, 2 years' imprisonment was substituted for that imposed by the judge. (R v Avis (1998) 2 Cr App R (S) 178 applied).Appeal allowed.

[2003] EWCA Crim 2660