Arms dealer spared jail

A FORMER Suffolk firearms dealer has walked free from court after being handed a suspended sentence for illegal possession of rocket launchers, riot weapons and an anti-tank gun.

A FORMER Suffolk firearms dealer has walked free from court after being handed a suspended sentence for illegal possession of rocket launchers, riot weapons and an anti-tank gun.

Appearing at Bury St Edmunds Crown Court yesterday, Richard Ashley, 58, was handed a nine month suspended sentence for three offences following a lengthy trial held earlier this year.

The action came after a raid at the former Suffolk police armourer's home in Fen Road, Pakenham, near Bury, on February 14, 2001, where a large quantity of weapons were discovered.

During the nine-week trial in Ipswich, Ashley was found guilty of keeping ten weapons illegally, but cleared on two counts relating to a large quantity of handguns and machine guns.

But during yesterday's sentencing, Martyn Levett, mitigating for Ashley, told the court his client had already been punished, having suffered ill health since his arrest and effectively losing a successful business.

"My client provided a superb service to the county for a period of 15 years, and is generally a faultless person who has had a highly commendable reputation," said Mr Levett.

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"He did not pose any risk to the police or to the public, and there is no suggestion that any one of these weapons were kept for any criminal intent."

Following the hearing, Ashley's solicitor said his client intended to appeal against one of the convictions.

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