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Lord Monson: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her extremely thorough reply. She mentioned the Republic of Ireland as having the same common law tradition as ourselves, which is indeed the case, but it is significant that it does not have a minimum sentence for firearms offences—only, apparently, judging by the answer in her letter, for serious drug offences. Nevertheless, although I have no idea what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, would have said were he standing just behind me, I think that it was worth airing the matter and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 266 [Certain firearms offences to be triable only on indictment]:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 236A:


On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 267 [Power to sentence young offender to detention in respect of certain firearms offences: England and Wales]:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 236B:


    Page 151, line 23, after "(ae)" insert ", (af)"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 236C:


    After Clause 269, insert the following new clause—


"SENTENCING FOR FIREARMS OFFENCES IN NORTHERN IRELAND
Schedule (Sentencing for firearms offences in Northern Ireland) (which contains amendments of the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 (S.I. 1981/155(N.I. 2)) relating to sentencing) shall have effect."

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, this group of amendments makes provision for mandatory minimum sentences in Northern Ireland. They also provide technical and consequential modifications necessary to ensure the proper functioning of those provisions in Northern Ireland. They have been tabled following legitimate expressions of concern legitimately raised by local political representatives. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has concluded that the community in Northern Ireland should benefit from those important new measures.

Amendment No. 247A, which is grouped, corrects a minor drafting error from Committee. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 270 [Increase in penalty for offences relating to importation or exportation of certain firearms]:

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendments Nos. 236D to 236F:


    Page 152, line 27, leave out from "of" to "prohibition" in line 32 and insert—


"(a) an offence under subsection (2) or (3) above committed in Great Britain in connection with a prohibition or restriction on the importation of any weapon or ammunition that is of a kind mentioned in section 5(1)(a), (ab), (aba), (ac), (ad), (ae), (af) or (c) or (1A)(a) of the Firearms Act 1968,
(aa) any such offence committed in Northern Ireland in connection with a prohibition or restriction on the importation of any weapon or ammunition that is of a kind mentioned in Article 6(1)(a), (ab), (ac), (ad), (ae) or (c) or (1A)(a) of the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 1981, or
(b) any such offence committed in connection with the" Page 152, line 38, leave out from "of" to "prohibition" in line 43 and insert—


"(a) an offence under subsection (2) or (3) above committed in Great Britain in connection with a prohibition or restriction on the exportation of any weapon or ammunition that is of a kind mentioned in section 5(1)(a), (ab), (aba), (ac), (ad), (ae), (af) or (c) or (1A)(a) of the Firearms Act 1968,
(aa) any such offence committed in Northern Ireland in connection with a prohibition or restriction on the exportation of any weapon or ammunition that is of a kind mentioned in Article 6(1)(a), (ab), (ac), (ad), (ae) or (c) or (1A)(a) of the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 1981, or
(b) any such offence committed in connection with the" Page 153, line 5, leave out from "of" to "prohibitions" in line 9 and insert—


"(a) an offence under subsection (2) or (3) above committed in Great Britain in connection with a prohibition or restriction on the importation or exportation of any weapon or ammunition that is of a kind mentioned in section 5(1)(a), (ab), (aba), (ac), (ad), (ae), (af) or (c) or (1A)(a) of the Firearms Act 1968,
(aa) any such offence committed in Northern Ireland in connection with a prohibition or restriction on the importation or exportation of any weapon or ammunition that is of a kind mentioned in Article 6(1)(a), (ab), (ac), (ad), (ae) or (c) or (1A)(a) of the Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 1981, or
(b) any such offence committed in connection with the"

11 Nov 2003 : Column 1291

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Bassam of Brighton moved Amendment No. 236FA:


    Before Schedule 27, insert the following new schedule—

"SENTENCING FOR FIREARMS OFFENCES IN NORTHERN IRELAND

1 The Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 (S.I. 1981/155(N.I. 2)) is amended as follows.
2 In Article 2(2) (interpretation) after the definition of "firearms dealer" there is inserted—
"handgun" means any firearm which either has a barrel less than 30 centimetres in length or is less than 60 centimetres in length overall, other than an air weapon, a muzzle-loading gun or a firearm designed as signalling apparatus;".
3 In Article 3(1) (requirement of firearm certificate) for sub-paragraph (a) there is substituted—
"(aa) has in his possession, or purchases or acquires, a handgun without holding a firearm certificate in force at the time, or otherwise than as authorised by such a certificate;
(ab) has in his possession, or purchases or acquires, any firearm, other than a handgun, without holding a firearm certificate in force at the time, or otherwise than as authorised by such a certificate; or".
4 After Article 52 of that Order there is inserted—
"52A MINIMUM SENTENCE FOR CERTAIN OFFENCES
(1) This Article applies where—
(a) an individual is convicted of—
(i) an offence under Article 3(1)(aa),
(ii) an offence under Article 6(1)(a), (ab), (ac), (ad), (ae) or (c), or
(iii) an offence under Article 6(1A)(a), and
(b) the offence was committed after the commencement of this Article and at a time when he was aged 16 or over.
(2) The court shall—
(a) in the case of an offence under Article 3(1)(aa) committed by a person who was aged 21 or over when he committed the offence, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of five years (with or without a fine), and
(b) in any other case, impose an appropriate custodial sentence for a term of at least the required minimum term (with or without a fine)
unless (in any of those cases) the court is of the opinion that there are exceptional circumstances relating to the offence or to the offender which justify its not doing so.
(3) Where an offence is found to have been committed over a period of two or more days, or at some time during a period of two or more days, it shall be taken for the purposes of this Article to have been committed on the last of those days.
(4) In this Article—
"appropriate custodial sentence" means—
(a) in the case of an offender who is aged 21 or over when convicted, a sentence of imprisonment, and
(b) in the case of an offender who is aged under 21 at that time, a sentence of detention under section 5(1) of the Treatment of Offenders Act (Northern Ireland) 1968;

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"the required minimum term" means—
(a) in the case of an offender who was aged 21 or over when he committed the offence, five years, and
(b) in the case of an offender who was aged under 21 at that time, three years."
5 After Article 52A there is inserted—
"52B POWER BY ORDER TO EXCLUDE APPLICATION OF MINIMUM SENTENCE TO THOSE UNDER 18
(1) The Secretary of State may by order—
(a) amend Article 52A(1)(b) by substituting for the word "16" the word "18", and
(b) make such other provision as he considers necessary or expedient in consequence of, or in connection with, the provision made by virtue of sub-paragraph (a).
(2) The provision that may be made by virtue of paragraph (1)(b) includes, in particular, provision amending or repealing any statutory provision within the meaning of section 1(f) of the Interpretation Act (Northern Ireland) 1954 (whenever passed or made).
(3) An order under paragraph (1) shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament in like manner as a statutory instrument and section 5 of the Statutory Instruments Act 1946 shall apply accordingly."
6 (1) Schedule 2 (table of punishments) is amended as follows.
(2) For the entry relating to offences under Article 3(1) (purchase, acquisition or possession of firearm or ammunition without firearm certificate.) there is substituted—
"Article 3(1)(aa)Purchase, acquisition or possession of handgun without firearm certificateIndictment10 years or a fine, or both
Article 3(1)(ab)Purchase, acquisition or possession without firearm certificate of firearm other than handgun(a) Summary1 year or a fine of the statutory maximum, or both
(b) Indictment5 years or a fine, or both
Article 3(1)(b)Purchase, acquisition or possession of ammunition without firearm certificate(a) Summary1 year or a fine of the statutory maximum, or both
(b) Indictment5 years or a fine, or both

(3) For the entries relating to offences under Article 6(1) (manufacture, dealing in or possession of prohibited weapons) and Article 6(1A) (possession of or dealing in other prohibited weapons) there is substituted—
"Article 6(1)(a), (ab), (ac), (ad), (ae) and (c)Manufacture, dealing in or possession of prohibited weapons.Indictment10 years or a fine, or both
Article 6(1)(b)Manufacture, dealing in or possession of prohibited weapon designed for discharge of noxious liquid etc.(a) Summary1 year or a fine of the statutory maximum, or both
(b) Indictment10 years or a fine, or both
Article 6 (1A)(a)Possession of or dealing in firearm disguised as other objectIndictment10 years or a fine, or both
Article 6(1A)(b),(c), (d), (e), (f) or (g)Possession of or dealing in other prohibited weapons(a) Summary6 months or a fine of the statutory maximum, or both.
(b) Indictment10 years or a fine, or both"."

11 Nov 2003 : Column 1293

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 28 [Further provision about new method]:


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