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Weapons stash man escapes prison

PUBLISHED: 13:25 23 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:43 03 March 2010

A GUN-ENTHUSIAST has narrowly escaped a jail sentence after a collection of illegal firearms were seized from his home.

John Turner, of Aster Road, Ipswich, who represented himself at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday, was sentenced to 200 hours community punishment and ordered to pay £750 towards costs.

A GUN-ENTHUSIAST has narrowly escaped a jail sentence after a collection of illegal firearms were seized from his home.

John Turner, of Aster Road, Ipswich, who represented himself at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday, was sentenced to 200 hours community punishment and ordered to pay £750 towards costs.

The 49-year-old told Judge Gareth Hawkesworth that most of the items seized last September from his home were dismantled antiques left over from his gun restoration days and not working weapons.

But the married father-of-four admitted he had illegally possessed the weapons, including a self-loading pistol, a revolver, two pistols, ammunition and component parts for a revolver and a rifle.

Mr Turner blamed the present system for disposing of illegal firearms for his situation – saying it left collectors of valuable antique weapons out of pocket or at risk of prosecution.

He claimed: "There was no legal facility to dispose of the weapons so I elected to keep them in a secure environment. They were not assembled and some parts I kept elsewhere. I was in a position where I could not see a practical option out without considerable financial loss."

He claimed the authorities only pay £300 compensation for the handing over of a firearm – a fraction of what some of his guns were worth.

Mr Turner, who has been in the business of restoring guns for 35 years, said he had been a member of several gun clubs.

He added: "In my career I have been in charge of thousands of weapons. I have never lost one and never had one involved in a crime."

But Judge Hawkesworth said: "I accept that beyond a blatant and knowing disregard of the law no criminality was involved and that you had taken steps to make sure the weapons were well hidden.

"I believe that changes in legislation, which you did not agree with, deprived you of your previous livelihood, and you made a conscious decision to put yourself above the law –displaying an arrogance which this court finds troubling."

The judge said as a man with experience of firearms Mr Turner of all people knew the dangers of having such weapons around. He also said the defendant held onto the guns for purely financial reasons and personal gain.

The judge added: "I would have been well within my powers to sentence you to a substantial term in custody."

But Judge Hawkesworth said several factors saved Mr Turner from this, including the fact he was once a registered arms dealer, he is a middle-aged family man of good character and that there was no malice involved.

The judge warned the defendant any further offences would lead to a custodial sentence.

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