Judges send gun case man back to jail

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A man jailed after being found in possession of a loaded pistol has been ordered back to prison by judges who ruled that his sentence of 18 months should have been five years.

Three Court of Appeal judges in London declared that the original custodial term imposed on Joseph Wright, 57, of Burnhope, County Durham, was “on any view unduly lenient”.

Lady Justice Hallett, announcing the decision of the court day to raise the sentence to five years, yesterday said Wright was found in possession of a “potentially lethal weapon which was ready to fire”.

Wright was sentenced to a total of 18 months at Durham Crown Court in July after earlier pleading guilty to a charge of possessing a prohibited firearm and another of possessing ammunition without a firearms certificate. He has since been released from prison.

The appeal judges agreed with argument put forward on behalf of Solicitor General Oliver Heald that in Wright’s case there were no “exceptional” circumstances justifying a departure from the minimum sentence of five years decreed by Parliament for possession of a firearm.

A loaded Luger pistol and further rounds of ammunition were found after police went to Wright’s home with a warrant to search for firearms in April.

The court heard that Wright was seen retrieving a metal box from under a haystack. He walked towards a wooded area and attempted to dispose of the box.

Officers followed him and the box was found to contain a fully assembled self-loading pistol with a round of ammunition loaded in the chamber. The box contained 15 further rounds.

Wright claimed the gun had belonged to his late father who collected Second World War memorabilia, saying he had been planning to inform the police about it and had “panicked” after finding it following his father’s death.

Quashing the 18 months and replacing it with five years, Lady Justice Hallett said the sentencing judge had placed “far too much weight on the offender’s physical and mental condition”.

Although his health was poor, and the court understood his family’s concern, the facts of the case “do not come close to amounting to exceptional circumstances”.

Wright was due to surrender to the police yesterday to go back to prison.