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Coundon stun gun man jailed for five years
A MAN who was initially spared prison despite being caught in possession of stun guns disguised as mobile phones has been jailed for five years on appeal.
After Robert Downes had pleaded guilty to six charges at Durham Crown Court last November, Judge Penny Moreland warned the 61-year-old jail was “virtually inevitable”.
But when Downes returned to the same court a few weeks later, his lawyer Ian West argued his was an exceptional case and Recorder Andrew Sutcliffe handed down a 12-month suspended sentence.
However, three Court of Appeal judges in London today (Thursday, January 24) agreed with Solicitor General Oliver Heald that the sentence was unduly lenient and jailed the married father-of-two for five years.
Mr Heald had claimed the suspended sentence was wholly inadequate as a deterrent to others.
Parliament had decided certain firearms offences should carry a mandatory five-year minimum sentence unless there were exceptional circumstances, he said.
The judges agreed. Lord Justice Treacy said the disguised nature of the items made them potentially more dangerous and there were no exceptional circumstances.
“We realise that the result is indeed a hard one for the offender but Parliament has spoken and we must apply the law faithfully,” he added.
Downes bought the weapons on the internet for £18 and intended to sell some at a car boot sale. Three were disguised as mobile phones and two looked like knuckle dusters.
Each was made to fire about 8,000 volts, although some were not working.
He admitted three charges of possessing a disguised firearm and three of possessing a prohibited weapon.
Mr West said Downes had suffered mental health problems, bought the devices out of paranoia for his home and, when he bought them, did not know they were illegal.
Police found the weapons at Downes’ home, on Eden Close, Coundon, County Durham, on August 3 last year.
After today’s hearing, Mr Heald said: “Concealed stun guns are serious weapons.
“I am pleased that they have increased the sentence to five years. I hope this sentence will send out a clear message that possession of these weapons will not be tolerated.”