Woman who kept stun gun in handbag avoids jail in ‘exceptional case’

A stun gun disguised as mobile phone and seized in Norfolk in 2014

A stun gun disguised as mobile phone and seized in Norfolk in 2014 - Credit: Archant

A woman’s “truly exceptional” personal circumstances have kept her from going straight to prison for carrying a stun gun disguised as a mobile phone.

Dawn Watson was described as being “particularly vulnerable” when she bought the weapon for £90 from an American website.

The 52-year-old, of Church Road, Lowestoft, was arrested after police were called to her old address by a former “on-off” partner in September 2016.

Ipswich Crown Court heard he had removed the charged stun gun from Watson’s handbag and stood waiting outside for officers.

Prosecutor Michael Crimp described the weapon as manufactured to fit the size and appearance of a smartphone, but equipped with loosely fixed metal electrodes on either side.

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Watson kept the weapon in her handbag for about a month, but used it only once, accidentally, on herself.

“The defendant said she felt insecure, living on her own, and was unaware of the consequences,” added Mr Crimp, who described her as a woman of previously good character.

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Judge Rupert Overbury said the offence of possessing a disguised shock weapon would normally carry a five-year sentence, unless exceptional circumstances could be demonstrated for any jail term to be suspended.

Judge Overbury applied six considerations given by the Court of Appeal in 1998, including what sort of weapon was involved; what use was made of the firearm, and with what intention the defendant possessed the firearm.

“This was a real stun gun, but it was non-lethal, you kept it in a handbag, you never threatened anyone with it, and you are a very vulnerable individual, who was feeling even more vulnerable at the time,” added Judge Overbury, who said a pre-sentence report, requested by barrister Danielle O’Donovan, had set out relevant matters relating to Watson’s physical and mental health.

But he dismissed a theory she was unaware the weapon was illegal, saying: “Anyone with an ounce of sense would know such items are prohibited, irrespective of the fact you can buy them on the internet. However, I entirely accept the circumstances of the offence, and your personal circumstances, making this one of the truly exceptional cases this court presides over.”

Watson received a 12-month jail term, suspended for a year, and must attend 25 rehabilitation days.

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