A Cotswold ‘countryman’ caught with an illegal pistol and a semi-automatic shotgun in his home was jailed for three years yesterday by a judge who branded him ‘dangerous’ and ‘grossly irresponsible.
Police found the weapons at 47-year-old Duncan Giles‘ former home in Hidcote Road, Ebrington, near Chipping Campden, when they were called to the house after he assaulted his wife.
The shotgun was loaded and was not locked away in a cabinet, as it should have been. The Astra 4000 Falcon pistol was in a cabinet but he had no certificate for it – and he also had hundreds of cartridges and rounds of ammunition without authority, said prosecutor Janine Wood at Gloucester Crown Court.
Jailing Giles, who now lives on a farm in Minety, Wiltshire, Judge Jamie Tabor QC told him he had displayed a ‘cavalier attitude and disregard’ for firearms laws.
Giles pleaded guilty to five charges of possessing guns and ammunition without a certificate.
The most serious charge of having the Falcon pistol carried a mandatory five year minimum jail term but Judge Tabor found there were special reasons for not imposing such a ‘draconian’ sentence. Instead he passed a term totalling three years.
Mrs Wood told the court it was on January 28 this year that police were called after Giles assaulted his wife during an argument by ‘picking her up in a bear hug and throwing her against furniture.’
Giles then smashed a window of a car in which a man friend of Mrs Giles’ was waiting outside.
Giles was convicted of assault and criminal damage by Cheltenham Magistrates last month and had been ordered to pay almost £1,000 in compensation, fines and costs.
Mrs Wood said police checked the house after Giles’ wife told them he had a collection of guns in the property.
There were two firearms cabinets in the bedroom wardrobe and they contained four shotguns and four rifles which Giles legally held. The pistol was also among them but the semi-automatic shotgun was wedged between the two cabinets and was loaded.
Giles was permitted to have 600 shotgun cartridges but police counted 1,178. He was allowed to have 75 rounds of rifle ammunition but had 126. Some of the ammunition was in his shed and car rather than in the cabinets.
Giles told police he had brought the semi automatic shotgun back from Canada, where he was living in the 90s. He said he had ‘found’ the pistol last year and was using it as a humane killer in his work as a terrierman shooting vermin.
Richard Atkins, defending, told the court that Giles is a ‘solitary man of the land’ working 50-70 hours a week and that shooting ‘is his life outside work.’
"He goes out at night helping other farmers doing what in effect is good work on the land – rabbits, etc," he said.
"His marriage of the last five years was something he believed to be the making of him but that marriage has now ended in the most acrimonious divorce."
Giles now appreciated that he should never have ‘dillied and dallied’ about telling the police he had the handgun, he said.
He asked the court to take into account letters of reference for Giles, who had a clean record until the recent incidents, he added.
Passing sentence, Judge Tabor said that in the UK it is a privilege and not a right to own guns and Giles had abused it. The sentences for those who had illegal firearms was ‘draconian.’
"The law applies equally to a member of a crime gang in an inner city as it does to a terrierman working in the countryside," he said.
"You have displayed not simply a cavalier attitude to the law but I am afraid a complete disregard that was dangerous. It was grossly irresponsible – particularly so when there was disharmony in the household which broke out into actual violence.
"Your references refer to you as a quiet, honest and reliable man. You have not been well for some time, having fallen ill in November last year. But these offences were committed long before that.
"Nearly all the references say you are safe with guns and highly knowledgeable but I am not certain that, if they had knowledge of these offences, say would still say you are safe with guns."
The judge said that taking into account Giles’ good character, his lawful possession of a firearms certificate, his genuine reasons for possessing guns, his current illness and family circumstances, and the fact there had been no trouble since his arrest there were special reasons for not imposing a five year jail term.
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