A three-year-old boy was rushed to hospital by his mum with a pellet embedded in his hand after an air rifle was fired by a drinker in a Bradford street.
The youngster, who had been playing with other children on a hot June day last year, was hit in the right hand after Mark Clavin asked another man if he could look at the rifle and the loaded weapon went off in his hands.
Prosecutor Alisha Kaye told Bradford Crown Court on Thursday that Clavin had been looking through the sight when “all of a sudden” the rifle went off.
She described how someone then shouted: "Oh my God you’ve shot him.”
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Miss Kaye said the boy’s mother heard the shouting and then saw a woman carrying her son towards her with his hand wrapped in a coat.
The court heard that the boy was crying and bleeding quite heavily, and his mum put him into a car and took him straight to the Bradford Royal Infirmary where he underwent surgery to remove the pellet from his hand.
The court heard that Clavin and other people called the police and the defendant told the operator: ”I’ve accidentally shot a child with an air rifle.”
After his arrest Clavin admitted he had been drinking and his barrister Clare Walsh said her client had drunk five cans of lager.
The owner of the rifle had handed it to Clavin telling him it was for sale, but Clavin said he didn’t know the weapon was loaded.
Mrs Walsh said 55-year-old Clavin, of West Royd Close, Shipley, had been “devastated” by what had happened and she pointed out that an examination of the rifle had revealed that it could be discharged with lower than normal trigger pressure for such a weapon.
She also said that the air rifle did not have a safety catch.
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Clavin was found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm after a magistrates court trial last month and today Judge Jonathan Gibson sentenced him to six months in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered him to comply with a six-month alcohol treatment requirement.
Clavin, who is on benefits, will also have to pay compensation of £200 to the boy.
The judge told Clavin that he had caused a very unpleasant and painful injury to the child, but the injury to the boy, or someone else, could have been worse if, for example, the pellet had hit anyone in the eye.
But the judge said he was sentencing Clavin on the basis that he had no intention of discharging the air rifle and didn’t know it was loaded.
“You had not even a momentary intention to use the air rifle to cause injury,” said the judge.
“There was no premeditation...rather this was a case of being reckless.”