Firearms ban for farmer who shot at thief ‘to defend mother’

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A farmer who used his shotgun to defend his mother from a metal thief has been banned from keeping firearms by the police force he helped catch the crook.

Bill Edwards says David Taylor would have got away had he not followed the career criminal’s van until it was stopped by police in the next village.

Mr Edwards was stunned to be arrested on suspicion of attempting to murder Taylor over the incident in remote woodland on the outskirts of Scarborough.

The farmer’s guns were seized and not returned, even after the attempted murder allegation was dropped.

Taylor walked free from court laughing after being given a £100 fine for stealing the metal.

Now Mr Edwards’s firearms certificate has been revoked by North Yorkshire Police, who have branded him “a danger to public safety or the peace”.

Former boarding school pupil Mr Edwards has appealed against the decision to a crown court judge. If the appeal fails, he says he faces ruin.

“It will stop me farming. When the police revoked my certificates they finally released my guns,” he said. “They have ruined them while in their ‘care’ due to rough handling. It looks like they have played hockey with them and kept them in damp storage conditions.

“If I can’t get my certificates back soon I won’t be able to continue farming. I have also lost my only hobby – shooting.

“In addition to losing my own farming, much of my work is for other farmers who expect me to control pests for them too. Not doing this makes me much less employable in a place where there are already too many farm workers and not enough jobs.”

He could not really afford the legal costs of the appeal because of hard times he has gone through after his arrest. “However, I have to do it,” he added.

Mr Edwards, 21, of Scalby, Scarborough, was arrested last summer on suspicion of attempting to murder Taylor.

Taylor, 39, of Cromwell Terrace, Scarborough, claimed he had been “traumatised” by Mr Edwards shooting at him as he tried to drive off with a van load of stolen metal from remote farmland at Whin Covert, Riggs Head.

Mr Edwards always maintained he only turned his shotgun on the van because he feared for the life of his mother, Louisa Smith, 50, as Taylor sped towards her.

His four shotguns and two rifles – worth at least £3,000 – were all confiscated when he was arrested last August.

When he was finally released from police bail on December 20 he was given a letter from North Yorkshire Police saying they were going to review his suitability to hold a firearms certificate.

Mr Edwards’s father Garry, 67, of Bradford, said: “The police have finally revoked Bill’s certificates and passed his guns to me. All the guns are badly damaged. In theory, I can finally now do his pest control for him.

“But even if I had enough time to do it properly it’s now far too late, the foxes are completely out of control and Bill will probably go out of business.”

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said: “As Mr Edwards has appealed against the decision to revoke his firearms certificate it would not be appropriate to comment until the court proceedings have been completed.”

In his corner, Mr Edwards has the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, the national representative body for shooting sports.

Senior Firearms Officer Matt Perring said: “A gun is absolutely essential to a farmer. There is nothing like having your own gun to control the land.

“Otherwise the land owner can ask anyone else with a shotgun certificate to do the job.”

He said employers needed farm workers who were trusted to carry guns to stop pests and vermin attacking crops. “Otherwise, it’s like asking someone to put up a fence with a broken arm,” Mr Perring added.

The letter to Mr Edwards from Deputy Chief Constable Tim Madgwick said: “I am not satisfied you can be permitted to possess a firearm without danger to the public safety or to the peace.

“Therefore, I have decided to revoke your firearm and shotgun certificates.”