A man who tried to hand in a loaded gun to police was told his local station was closed and he’d have to call 101 to report the firearm or send an email.
Seamus Boyle, 27, tried to surrender the 22 revolver during a gun amnesty but was told by an off-duty op to dial the non-emergency police number or go online.
He called police from a nearby phone box with the gun in his right pocket, causing armed officers to be scrambled just minutes later.
At Basildon Crown Court today (thu), Boyle admitted possessing a firearm and possessing ammunition – which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.
But Judge David Owen-Jones reduced the sentence to four years, citing several ‘exceptional circumstances’ – including the fact that the defendant had been unable to hand the gun in because of the police station closure.
The judge said: “Taking as I am a holistic approach the events, I am just able to find truly exceptional circumstances for not imposing the minimum term of five years, but the reduction is a small one.”
The court heard how Boyle obtained the gun in November 2016 because he feared people were going to come to his home and hurt him.
It followed a previous incident in which he injured a home intruder when a group of people showed up at his house, smashed his windows and tried to attack him.
But he became ‘paranoid’ about keeping it around members of his family and decided to hand it in a week later.
However, when he arrived at the police station in Basildon, Essex, he found it to be closed.
The station’s front counter had previously been open 24 hours a day, but its opening hours had been slashed due to Government austerity measures and budget cuts, the court heard,
A female police constable – who was off-duty, wearing plain clothes and did not identify herself as an officer – passed him outside the station and told him to call 101 or go online if he wanted to file a report.
The court heard that minutes later, Boyle called police from a payphone and reported that he had a .22 revolver in his right pocket, loaded with four bullets.
He told police he felt ‘paranoid’ and ‘psychotic’, and wanted the force to come and take it away from him.
Jon Harrison, defending him, told the court that Boyle had recently faced a trial over a Section 18 wounding offence, but had been acquitted by jurors on grounds of self-defence.
Mr Harrison said: “Mr Boyle’s position now, odd as it may seem, is that he acquired this firearm by magic and magic made him do as he did.”
Judge Owen-Jones said the case had taken a year to reach sentencing because of the number of reports which had been commissioned to determine whether the defendant was mentally ill.
While psychiatrists did not find Boyle suffered from an acute mental illness, it was clear he was prone to unusual behaviour, the court heard.
The judge cited several ‘exceptional circumstances’, including Mr Boyle’s inability to hand the gun in because of the police station closure, his compliance with the officers during the incident, the short time he had possessed the gun for, the fact that he had not used the gun in any criminal activity and his tendency to exhibit ‘bizarre’ behaviour.
He did not take into account that the incident occurred during a gun amnesty, as Boyle had not known it was in force and his visit to the station had been coincidental.
Jailing him for four years, Judge Owen-Jones told Boyle: “I think it goes without saying in this case that your behaviour from time to time clearly is extremely bizarre and odd.
“I’ve read the various reports about you. I’m clearly of the same view as the experts that you do not suffer from a mental illness, but the behaviour you have exhibited clearly shows bizarre, odd and strange characteristics.”