Flecknoe Man’s unlicensed guns and ammunition were ‘nothing sinister’

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A farmer’s son had escaped being jailed after a judge accepted there was nothing sinister in his possession of guns and ammunition without certificates.

Samuel Midgley had pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to possessing two shotguns, a Winchester rifle, a silencer and ammunition without the necessary firearms certificates.

Midgley, 31, of Bush Hill Lane, Flecknoe, near Rugby, was sentenced to a total of two months in prison suspended for two years, with two years supervision.

Midgely, who also admitted possessing cannabis and cocaine, was ordered to take part in a nine-month drug rehabilitation programme and to pay £1,200 costs.

Prosecutor Andrew Tucker said that in March last year Midgley was stopped by the police in Southam at just after midnight because of the erratic way he was driving.

He had some cannabis on him, so he was arrested and officers then went to his home and carried out a search which revealed he had an interest in weapons.

So a second search was carried out by officers who seized a number of firearms which were examined by David Roberts, the assistant firearms licensing officer for the West Mercia area.

They included a Manu Arm .410 over-and-under shotgun, a Geko Carabiner shotgun and a Winchester .22 self-loading rifle, all of which required a firearms certificate.

In addition there was a box of hollow-point ammunition and a sound moderator (silencer) for the Winchester, both of which also required a certificate.

Mr Tucker said: “There were a number of other weapons in the form of air pistols and air rifles and so on which were not subject to firearms control.”

He pointed out that Midgley entered his pleas on the basis that the Winchester and its silencer and ammunition belonged to his father, who had a certificate.

While his father was present at their farm he would be permitted to use it - but he was in breach of the law because he had continued to use it to go ‘lamping,’ shooting vermin around the farm at night, while his father was away in Ireland at the time.

It was said Midgley’s Geko shotgun had been seen when his father had renewed his own shotgun certificate, but that his father had mistakenly been told it did not need to be licensed separately.

Midgley’s basis of plea ended by saying that the Manu shotgun had been left there by a friend who was also a farmer.

And Judge Alan Parker commented: “There is nothing at all sinister about any of this. Many of these are offences of strict liability.”

Midgley, who had a previous conviction for producing cannabis at the farm, said the cannabis was for personal use, and the cocaine had been left behind by someone else and he had done nothing to get rid of it.

Graham Henson, defending, said: “We have been at pains for many months to try to persuade who needs to be persuaded that there is nothing sinister in this.”

Judge Parker said: “I think his attitude towards firearms is rather casual. People must expect to go to prison if they do not comply with the regulations, although in this case I will suspend it.”

Mr Henson pointed out that Midgley’s father has since had his firearms licence revoked after appearing in the magistrates court for two Firearms Act offences, for which he was fined.

“As a result of what has happened to him and his son it has raised a few eyebrows within the farming community, and has led to a number of people doing some rapid checks on their own firearms and certificates.”

Judge Parker, who ordered the forfeiture of the firearms, told Midgley: “It hardly needs me to say that the possession of firearms, together with ammunition, is possession of artefacts which can have a deadly effect.

“The opportunity to be in possession of them is not a right to be exercised, but a privilege to be earned.

“But I am satisfied, now we have determined there is no sinister aspect, this is a case where your attitude towards firearms was casual, or perhaps cavalier might be a better word to use.

“People need to know that if they are not licensed it is very probable they will go to prison.

“But because of the wholly unusual circumstances of this case, the court finds this does not present direct public protection issues.”

Midgley was given concurrent one-month suspended sentence for the firearms offences, with a consecutive one-month suspended sentence for possessing the cannabis.