Teenager convicted of shotgun charge

A TEENAGE boy who shot his cousin in the face with a double barrel shotgun has been warned he could face custody after magistrates dismissed his claims that he inadvertently turned off the weapon's safety catch.

A 13-YEAR-OLD boy who shot his cousin in the face with a double barrel shotgun has been warned he could face custody after magistrates dismissed his claims that he inadvertently turned off the weapon's safety catch.

The youth, who cannot be named because of his age, was yesterday found guilty of causing GBH following the horrific incident in Haverhill in November 2004.

His relative, who was also 13 at the time, suffered severe injuries to his face, shoulder and arm which doctors fear could cause him “significant” mobility, speech and vision problems in the future.

Magistrates yesterday found that the defendant had acted “recklessly” after he loaded the 12-bore gun with live ammo and pointed it at his cousin to “scare him.”

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The defendant repeatedly claimed that he thought the gun's safety catch was on, but pellets from the weapon penetrated the victim's brain and left eye and he underwent plastic surgery and skin grafts.

Asked to address the victim and his family, who were not in court, the defendant, who has undergone weekly counselling sessions, said: “I am very sorry for what I have done. At the time I didn't know what I was doing, I was very scared.

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“I didn't realise what had happened. Once the gun went off, I was shocked, confused, scared and panicking. Straight after, my cousin was lying on the floor but then he started walking and asking for help.”

During the three-day trial at Bury St Edmunds Youth Court, the youngster, who is now 15-years-old, claimed that he had taken the weapon from his father's gun cabinet to scare his cousin and a third friend.

He then replaced a blank cartridge with live ammo - but claimed in court he didn't realise what he was doing as he was watching football on television.

He then followed the victim into the kitchen and pointed the gun at him for “a laugh.”

In finding the youngster guilty of one count of GBH, presiding magistrate Huw Davies said: “We believe that your actions were reckless. You pointed the gun at the victim and then consciously moved the gun because you knew if it had gone off, he could have been hurt.”

The court had earlier heard that the trio had been playing controversial PlayStation2 game Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, which features “gangsters and guns” on the day in question - but the defendant yesterday refused to blame the game for his actions.

He said he only took his father's shotgun from a cabinet upstairs to “scare” his friends, claiming his older brother had done a similar thing just weeks before the incident.

He added: “I thought i would scare them for once - I was not intending to shoot anyone. We were always just joking and messing about.

“I thought I had to push the safety catch on every time the gun was loaded. There was nothing on the gun to say whether it was on or off.

“I pushed the safety catch up as I thought that was making the gun safe and that it couldn't be fired.

“I pointed the gun at him for just a few seconds - we were just messing around. I moved the gun to the side and started to bring it down and then it went off.”

Jamas Hodivala , in mitigation, said: “What he [the defendant] did was foolish in the extreme but was it naivety to act as he did, which led him to believe he knew how to operate the safety catch?

“You have to have some sympathy for my client but also overwhelming sympathy for the victim and his family.

“It was a foolish thing to do but it doesn't make my client guilty of reckless conduct in the legal sense of the word.

“An adult would not have acted as they did in November 2004, but it was just a game which had dire consequences.”

The defendant was granted unconditional bail and ordered to return to Bury St Edmunds Youth Court for sentencing on March 1.

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