‘Gun’ found in ex-soldier’s loft

York Crown Court
York Crown Court

A “mischief” making wife “dobbed in” her former soldier husband for having parts of a military assault rifle and 99 rounds of ammunition stored in their loft, a court was told.

The discovery was made after Paul Swalwell, 44, a former medic in the Green Howards, and his wife separated, it was said at York Crown Court.

Following information received from her by the police, a search warrant was executed at the former marital home.

There the bolt carrier and part of the trigger mechanism from a British Army issue SA80 assault rifle were found in a kit bag, along with the bullets.

Swalwell, now living with his parents in Flock Leys, Scarborough, faced a possible minimum five year jail sentence for possessing the gun parts, and a maximum five years for possessing the ammunition.

He appeared for sentencing having previously admitted both offences.

Alan Mitcheson, prosecuting, told how, under the present gun laws, the possession of just spare parts for such a weapon had to be treated as if it was an actual complete prohibited rifle.

He told how Swalwell had served in the army between 1985 and 1993, completing three tours of Northern Ireland during the troubles as well as serving in Germany, The Falklands and Africa.

He said that the gun parts and ammunition were found by police, along with his beret and other items from Swalwell’s army career, being brought back by him as souvenirs.

Mitigating, Charles Blatchford said that, following an exemplary army career, Swalwell had been discharged while serving in Northern Ireland, packing his belongings, including the gun parts and ammunition, into his kit bag without thinking matters through.

Mr Blatchford said the military authorities were partly to blame for what then happened.

He claimed that if they had followed correct customs procedures and x-rayed Swalwell’s belongings on his journey home to England, they would have detected the illegal items and confiscated them from him immediately.

The kit bag had been placed in his loft by Swalwell and more-or-less forgotten about, said Mr Blatchford, adding that it was not even certain that the trigger mechanism was serviceable.

Mr Blatchford presented the court with references, including one from the 4th Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment - the successors to the Green Howards, adding that Swalwell was also seeking help for health problems brought about by what he had seen and experienced whilst a serving soldier.

Passing sentence, Judge Shaun Spencer QC said that he understood that the items came to light because, as an “Act of mischief”, Swalwell had been “dobbed in” by his estranged wife.

He added that, although the gun parts were relatively useless on their own, an opportunistic burglar could find an unlawful use for the ammunition.

He sentenced Swalwell to eight months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.