Gun and gang crimes

Sentences for people convicted of crimes involving a gun have been made much tougher in recent years. Anyone who is found guilty of possessing an illegal firearm faces a minimum sentence of five years. Northumbria Police is working hard to tackle gangs and gang related crime. We understand that it can be difficult for young people to say no when being peer pressured into gang activities, and we also know that once you’re in a gang, it can be difficult to get out.


Is being in a gang illegal?

Being in a gang isn't against the law in itself, however the gang might be carrying out activity that is illegal.

It is important to remember that not all young people are involved in gangs and many want nothing to do with them.  But the behaviour of a small minority can have a big impact.

Sometimes gangs are involved in crimes such as stealing or carrying weapons and drugs.  Members can be pressurised into committing crime or could become victims of abuse or be pressurised into dangerous situations. 

If you are part of a gang and are found guilty of a criminal offence the judge may decide to hand out a longer sentence.


A gang is usually considered to be a group of people who spend time in public places that

  • see themselves (and are seen by others) as a noticeable group
  • engage in a range of criminal activity and violence. They may also have any or all of the following features

They may also have any or all of the following features

  • identify with or lay a claim over territory
  • are in conflict with other, similar gangsHowever, if the majority of offending is of a lower, non-violent level then they would be considered a peer group not a gang.

A criminal network (which is different to a gang) is:

  • a group of individuals involved in persistent criminality for some form of personal gain.
  • a group that keeps breaking the law to make money
  • this law-breaking is causing harm to the community
  • or, this law-breaking is a problem internationally (e.g. people trafficking)
    violence is used in order to make money (e.g. to scare people into giving them money)
  • they are running an illegal business (e.g. drug trafficking)

What are the signs that someone could be in a gang?

You should be on the lookout for any sudden changes in the person’s behaviour or lifestyle. Their behaviour may become worse and they may start staying out unusually late. They may change the way they dress or the way they speak. Their school results may start dropping. They could also have unexplained injuries, money or possessions.

I’m worried someone I know is involved in a gang. What can I do?

It is important to remember you are not alone. The police and a number of charities can offer help and advice. The first step is speaking to the person. Try to avoid confrontation and angry situations. Listen to what they have to say and understand if, and why they may have joined a gang.

Discuss with them the serious consequences that can happen if they become involved in gangs and crime.

Agree with them what the next step is and remind them of the support and help available to them.

If this does not work there are a number of charities that can offer support. You can also contact local officers for advice

I am in a gang but want to leave. What can I do?

If you’re already involved in gang culture, it’s not too late to get out.

Leaving a gang can be a difficult decision but it will have a positive impact on the rest of your life.

Gang life might seem glamorous – but life in prison is far from pleasant, and you’re putting yourself, your life, your future, and even the lives of your family members in danger by being part of a gang.

Tips to help you leave a gang:

  • Try to spend less time with the gang and find friends who are not in gangs.
  • Try to avoid places where you know the gang will be.
  • Speak to someone you trust like a family member, teacher or youth worker.
  • You can contact Gangsline for free advice and support from ex-gang members.
  • You can call the police by dialling 999 for urgent help if you're in danger.
  • Focus on things that you enjoy like sports, music, reading or find new hobbies.
  • You can contact ChildLine and speak to a counsellor in confidence. They can help you find a way to get out.If you remain in the gang you could get a criminal record which could affect your chances of getting into university or college, making it difficult to get a job.If they threaten you or try to force you back into the gang then please call us on 101.
  • If you are ever in danger or need urgent help always dial 999.
  • It is important to remember you are not alone in this process and there are people and charities that you can ask for help. Some even have ex-gang members who have been in the situation you are now.

I want to report someone who illegally owns a gun?

If you believe the gun is going to be used imminently or a life is in danger because of this, please call us on 999 immediately.

If you believe you know someone has got a gun but does not have a licence to own one, please call

What is gun crime law?

It is illegal for shops to sell imitation guns or air weapons to anyone under 18, or to sell realistic imitation guns to anyone.


By purchasing any of these items you will be committing an offense. Possessing a firearm, regardless of ownership, is also illegal and can result in a prison sentence.

For anyone carrying a gun, including those under 16, the consequences are tough.

  • It is illegal to carry a gun, even an imitation one.
  • If you are caught with a gun, regardless of whether you say it was for your own protection or you were carrying it for someone else, you will be arrested and prosecuted.
  • There's a minimum 5-year sentence for carrying a gun if you're over 18. If you're under 18, you could still go to prison.
  • Causing the death of someone with a gun carries a life sentence and you will serve a mandatory 30-year prison sentence.
  • If someone is injured or killed by a gun in your presence, even if you're not the one using it, you too could be prosecuted. You could be sent to prison for murder in what is referred to as ‘joint enterprise’.

How to report gun crime?

  • If you see someone with a gun in a public place, call 999 but do so without drawing attention to yourself.
  • If you believe that someone has a gun without a licence, even if they are looking after it for someone else, you should contact us.
  • If you want to stay anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 111 555.
  • If you believe that someone who holds a licensed shotgun or firearm certificate is using or storing their guns irresponsibly or without the right level of security contact us or call Crimestoppers if you want to make the report anonymously.

Gun licensing


  • When any firearm or shotgun licence is being issued or renewed, the police must be absolutely satisfied that the applicant is a fit to own the weapon and will not be a danger or nuisance to the public.
  • Firearms certificates cover all firearms except shotguns. A separate licence is required for each individual weapon. A single shotgun license covers an unlimited number of shotguns.
  • It is an absolute condition of either type of licence that all guns and ammunition must be stored in a secure place, and that it is impossible for unauthorised people to gain access to them. Play your part in reducing gun crime by reporting people you know or suspect may be carrying a weapon illegally.

What are the consequences of carrying a gun?

It is illegal to sell realistic imitation guns, even if they can't be turned into weapons that fire real ammunition, and you have to be at least 17 years old before you can possess an air rifle.

Gun crime includes any crime that involves the use of a gun or firearm. This includes:

  • A murder where the victim was shot
  • Any situation where a gun was fired, whether anyone was injured or not
  • A robbery or burglary where the thieves carried a gun as a weapon
  • intimidating people with a firearm
  • Carrying a gun that is banned, like a handgun
  • Carrying or using an imitation gun
  • Hiding a gun or keeping it for someone else
  • Owning a gun without a licenceIt’s illegal to buy or sell air weapons that use a self-contained gas cartridge system to fire pellets. It’s also illegal to carry air guns, even unloaded, in a public place without authority or good reason.  

Remember - the law is clear - if you choose to carry a weapon, you put your future in danger.

Consequences of carrying a gun:

  • Anyone convicted of carrying a gun will receive a minimum of 5 years in jail
  • People who carry guns for protection are more likely to get injured themselves
  • You don't have to be the person carrying the gun to be sent to jail for gun crime offences
  • If you carry a gun you're likely to either be arrested and end up spending years locked up in prison or a youth offender's institution, or shot and killed yourself
  • People who carry guns put the rest of their family and friends’ lives at risk.

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