Gun dealer and son spared jail for keeping banned weapons at home

Around 30 homes were evacuated after unknown chemicals were found by search teams at a property in W

About 30 homes were evacuated before the bomb squad carried out a controlled explosion in a nearby field - Credit: Archant

A father and son have been spared jail for keeping banned weapons at their home in Woodbridge.   

A week-long search of the property sparked the evacuation of 30 surrounding homes and a controlled explosion by the bomb squad on nearby Fen Meadow last October.

A bomb disposal van in Bridgewood Road, Woodbridge. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A bomb disposal van in Bridgewood Road, Woodbridge - Credit: Archant

Crispin and Philip Richards were handed suspended prison sentences at Ipswich Crown Court on Friday for possessing the prohibited weapons without authority.

The shortened shotgun and parts of a self-loading rifle were among hundreds of weapons and components removed from their Bridgewood Road address.

Officers at the scene of the controlled explosion in Woodbridge. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Officers at the scene of the controlled explosion - Credit: Archant

Police had attended the property on October 15 for the purpose of an inspection pending the renewal of Crispin Richards' registered gun dealer’s certificate – on which his son was a registered servant.

Both men also held valid firearms and shotgun certificates, the court heard.

However, inside a chest of drawers in Phillip Richards' bedroom, officers found a rusty 12 bore shotgun, made in 1887 and lacking firing pin, but with a barrel 15mm shorter than the length permitted by law.

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Meanwhile, inside the wardrobe of a spare room, officers found parts of a prohibited self loading rifle, which would have required further components to enable it to be fired. 

Crispin Richards, 59, and his 25-year-old son had denied four charges of possessing a prohibited weapon and two charges of possessing a shotgun disguised as a walking stick.

However, before the start of a trial on October 19 this year, they each admitted one offence of possessing a prohibited weapon without authority and the remaining charges were left on the court file.

Judge Martyn Levett said there were important exceptional circumstances to be taken into account in each of their cases.

He said there had been no risk posed to the public, or any danger of the weapons falling into criminal hands.

In deciding on sentences, Judge Levett said he had taken into account both men's previous good characters, guilty pleas, and that each spent a month in custody following their arrests, along with their strong personal mitigation and the realistic prospect of neither troubling the courts again.

Both were handed 24 months' custody, suspended for two years, with 250 hours' unpaid work, while Crispin Richards was also fined £5,000.