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In certain circumstances judges are required to pass particular types of sentence; for example, a defendant convicted of murder must receive a life sentence. Another example of this is where judges are required by law to pass custodial sentences with a minimum term. 

Mandatory minimum terms apply in a number of circumstances.  These include the following:

A Third Dwelling-House Burglary offence - 3 years

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Where a defendant aged 18 or over is facing sentence for dwelling-house burglary (often referred to as a domestic burglary) where the defendant has 2 or more previous convictions on separate dates for the same offence (and all the offences were committed after 30th November 1999), the minimum sentence must be 3 years, unless the judge considers there are circumstances relating to the offence or to the defendant which would make such a sentence unjust. 

A defendant in this situation is entitled to a reduction in sentence for a plea of guilty, but the sentence must never fall below 80% of the 3 year minimum term.  An early indication of a plea of guilty will attract the most credit.

Examples of what a judge would consider in deciding whether it would be unjust to impose the minimum sentence include the time between the current and previous offences, any good progress made following the previous convictions and whether the previous convictions were committed when the defendant was under 16.

A Third Class A Drug Trafficking Offence - 7 years

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Where a defendant aged 18 or over is facing sentence for Class A Drug Trafficking where the defendant has 2 or more previous convictions on separate dates for Class A Drug Trafficking offences (and all were committed after 30th September 1997), the minimum sentence must be 7 years, unless the judge considers there are circumstances relating to the offence or to the defendant which would make such a sentence unjust. 

A defendant facing a mandatory minimum term sentence for drug trafficking is entitled to a reduction in sentence for a plea of guilty, but the sentence must never fall below 80% of the 7 year minimum term.  An early indication of a plea of guilty will attract the most credit.

Drug Trafficking offences include importation, production, supply and possession with intent to supply controlled drugs of Class A.  Common Class A drugs are Cocaine, Heroin and Ecstacy.

Firearms Offences and Minding Firearms - 5 years

Firearms

Section 51A of the Firearms Act 1968 provides that defendants facing sentence for certain firearms offences must receive a minimum sentence of 5 years (for defendants aged 18+ when convicted) and 3 years (aged 16 or 17 when convicted), unless the judge considers there are exceptional circumstances relating to the offence or to the defendant which justify imposing a lesser sentence.  The firearms offences concerned must have been committed on or after certain dates (6th April 2007, 22nd January 2004 and 14th July 2014 depending on the precise offence).  Such is the complexity of the law in this area that legal advice is vital.

Defendants in this situation who plead guilty are not entitled to a reduction in sentence which would bring the sentence below the minimum term. Defendants aged 18+ who mind certain firearms (contrary to s.28 and s.29 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006) will receive a minimum term of 5 years unless the court considers there are exceptional circumstances relating to the offence or to the defendant which justify imposing a lesser sentence.  A guilty plea cannot reduce the sentence below the minimum term.

Threatening with an Offensive Weapon in Public/ Threatening with Bladed or Pointed Article or Offensive Weapon in Public or on School Premises - 6 months

Threatening with Offensive Weapon

Defendants who face sentencing for the offence of Threatening Another Person with an Offensive Weapon in a Public Place (an offence contrary to s.1A(1) of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953) or for the offence of Threatening Another Person in a Public Place or on School Premises with an Offensive Weapon or a Bladed/Pointed Article (an offence contrary to s.139AA of the Criminal Justice Act 1988) will receive a minimum term of 6 months (if aged 18+ when convicted) or a 4 month Detention and Training Order (if 16 or 17 when convicted) unless the judge considers there are particular circumstances relating to the offence or the defendant which would make it unjust to pass such a minimum term in all the circumstances. 

Defendants aged 18+ when convicted can be entitled to a maximum credit of 20% for a plea of guilty, enabling the sentence to be reduced below the minimum term.  There is no such restriction for defendants aged 16 or 17, although the minimum term for any Detention and Training Order is 4 months so credit will only be relevant for longer sentences.  Click for more information on credit for a guilty plea.

A Second Offensive Weapon/Bladed Article Offence - 6 months

2nd offensive weapon offence

Defendants convicted on or after 17th July 2015 with possession of an Offensive Weapon/Bladed or Pointed article in a public place or on school premises face a minimum term of 6 months (if 18+ when convicted) or a minimum 4 month Detention and Training Order (if 16 or 17 when convicted) if they have a previous conviction for such an offence, unless the court considers that there are particular circumstances relating to the offence, the previous offence or to the defendant which make it unjust to do so. 

Defendants aged 18+ when convicted can be entitled to a maximum credit of 20% for a plea of guilty, enabling the sentence to be reduced below the minimum term.  There is no such restriction for defendants aged 16 or 17, although the minimum term for any Detention and Training Order is 4 months so credit will only be relevant for longer sentences. 

Click here for more information on credit for a guilty plea.