Firearms expert faces jail threat

FIREARMS expert Richard Ashley is today facing the prospect of spending Christmas in prison after being convicted of illegally keeping weapons at his home.

FIREARMS expert Richard Ashley is today facing the prospect of spending Christmas in prison after being convicted of illegally keeping weapons at his home.

Ashley, who was employed as an armourer for Suffolk and Norfolk police, was found guilty yesterday of breaking the law by keeping 11 weapons – including an anti-tank gun, rocket launchers and guns that fired CS gas – in his collection.

But Ashley, who was described as being obsessed with guns, was cleared by a jury at Ipswich Crown Court of two charges relating to 47 handguns and 42 machine guns.

During the nine-week trial, Ashley accused police officers involved in the search of his home – during which dozens of guns were seized – of trying to fit him up by assembling weapons from parts.

Judge David Goodin adjourned sentence on Ashley, 58, of Pakenham, near Bury St Edmunds, until December 19.

He released Ashley on bail, but warned him although a pre-sentence report would cover all sentencing options, custody was a realistic outcome of the case.

Most Read

But defence barrister, Steven Dyble, said although in normal circumstances a custodial sentence would follow for the offences Ashley had been convicted of, the normal authorities might not apply if the breaches were minor infringements or technical breaches.

He added it was clear from the not guilty verdict on the charge relating to the illegal possession of handguns that the jury had concluded some of the weapons were antiques and he suggested there was no reason why they should not be returned to Ashley.

Judge Goodin said the issue of the forfeiture of the guns, as well as the question of costs, could be discussed on December 19.

During the trial, which was originally expected to last for four to six weeks, the court heard Ashley's home had been raided in February 2001 after an 18-month police and customs investigation into arms dealing.

During a 15-hour search of the property, officers seized more than 100 weapons including 47 handguns, 42 machine guns, seven riot guns, three rocket launchers and an anti-tank gun, which the prosecution claimed were in excess of what Ashley was legally allowed to hold.

But no evidence was found of the unlawful diversion of firearms, which police and customs had originally been investigating.

Giving evidence during the trial, police officers involved in the search of Ashley's home and Richard Kennet, Suffolk police's licensing firearms manager, denied trying to fit Ashley up by assembling guns from parts to put the armourer over his limit.

Ashley claimed many of the guns seized by police were antiques and claimed others had been assembled from parts to frame him.

He also claimed to have been targeted by police in an attempt to bring down an "untouchable" weapons dealer from Cambridgeshire whom he had dealt with.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter