20 July 2012
Pembrokeshire farmer, 66, jailed over firearms offences
A South Pembrokeshire Hunt supporter, arrested but not charged after a protester claimed she had been shot in the head, has been jailed for firearms offences.
Steven Barrett, 66, of St Clears, Carmarthenshire, had a sawn-off rifle and ammunition inside his van, Swansea Crown Court was told.
He admitted several fire arms offences.
Due to his poor health, he was given a three-and-a-half year jail term instead of the minimum of five years.
Janet Gedrych, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court how on 19 October last year the hunt gathered in a clearing in a wood near Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire.
There were also several supporters, travelling in vehicles, and protesters. Both groups, she said, were “well known to each other”.
An argument took place and one of the protesters, Dr Adrian Smallwood, began to film the scene.
His wife, Monica, then said she had been shot in the head and blood could be seen coming from her forehead.
Miss Gedrych said the police were called and, after viewing the film footage, identified several vehicles.
Barrett was stopped as he returned home in his van.
Under the front passenger seat officers found a gun that has been illegally modified.
Miss Gedrych said it was originally a 0.22 rimfire rifle but when officers found it it was more like a single shot handgun.
Barrett had shortened the barrel and replaced the stock with a pistol grip.
Officers also found 10 live rounds of 0.22 ammunition designed to expand on impact.
His home was searched and 10 air rifles and six air pistols were found.
Barrett told police he had put the gun and ammunition into his car because he had been under the impression that a nearby farmer would ask him to shoot a fox. But he would not say who the farmer was.
Miss Gedrych said police made a thorough search of the clearing and could find no evidence of anyone being shot. Barrett was not charged in relation to the alleged shooting.
James Hartson, defending, said Barrett, was a former gamekeeper and now a semi-retired farmer.
Mr Justice Spencer said he had given the matter “anxious consideration”.
He added that Parliament had laid down a five year minimum sentence for such offences for a good reason and Barrett could avoid it only if there were exceptional circumstances.
He ruled that because of his age and his poor health he could reduce the sentence to three and a half years, but no lower.
He said Barrett admitted he had left the gun and the ammunition in his vehicle overnight and had run the risk of the weapon falling into the wrong hands.
Barrett admitted possessing a rifle with a shortened barrel, illegal ammunition and an overpowered air rifle.