Friday, August 21, 2015

Wheelchair-bound grandad, 88, who was jailed for having an antique gun is freed after his barrister admits bungling the case

An 88-year-old great-grandfather who was jailed for having an antique shotgun in his car has been freed after a legal mix-up.

Wheelchair-bound Roy Delph had approached police to tell them about a group of yobs he suspected had trashed his allotment shed and killed his kitten.

But he found himself under arrest after officers spotted the shotgun on the passenger seat of his car.

The frail pensioner was then jailed at the end of last month after admitting carrying a loaded weapon in public - despite the court hearing he had an unblemished record, had been tormented by local youths and only kept the licensed weapon to shoot vermin on his land.

But Mr Delph wept as he was released on Tuesday, after his barrister realised he had wrongly classified the weapon as requiring a mandatory jail term - and had argued Mr Delph’s case on that basis.

Judge Nicholas Coleman re-sentenced the former wartime ‘Bevin Boy’ to a two-year prison term, suspended for 18-months with a 12-month supervision order at Norwich Crown Court.

By then, Mr Delph had spent 17 nights at the Victorian Norwich Prison - once home to Reggie Kray and great train robber Ronnie Biggs - before he was finally reunited with housebound wife Jackie, 73, his wife of more than 40 years.

Sipping a cup of tea at the couple’s home in Downham Market, Norfolk, Mr Delph, who is severely deaf and suffers from heart problems and arthritis, said he did not realise he was being jailed until the dock officers stood up to lead him to the cells.

The grandfather-of-five and great-grandfather-of-two added: ‘I was in complete shock - I never had a chance in that court room.

‘I was never allowed to speak and give my side of the story about the trouble we’d been having.  ‘And I do feel I’d done nothing wrong - a mountain was made from a molehill as far as I’m concerned.

‘I wasn’t prepared for going to prison - I didn’t pack anything or even take my watch.’ Asked what had got him through the ordeal, he pointed to his wife of 48 years and added: ‘It’s this lady here and the kind people out there who helped get me out,” said Mr Delph, who has heart problems, a hernia and severe arthritis.

‘The people who read or heard about my story in the media and what had happened to me.’ Mrs Delph said the couple were still waiting for a proper explanation over how the gun had been misclassified by barrister Lawrence Bruce, but said the bungle concerned the length of the gun barrel.

She added: ‘Roy should never have been jailed either way though. You only have to look at him to see that - he’s too frail and has never been in any sort of trouble before.’ She said Mr Delph had owned the 124-year-old gun since before they met, having repaired it for a man he then bought it off.

Cambridge-based Mr Bruce said he had mistakenly thought that the OAP’s gun had put the case in the category of the mandatory five-year minimum prison sentence imposed by Parliament.

He told the court on Tuesday: ‘I take primary responsibility for that error - an error to which I fell at a relatively early stage in proceedings.’ Mr Bruce said he took responsibility for getting it wrong but said the prosecution had not challenged his interpretation.

The original sentence was cut by Judge Coleman to two years in light of mitigation.

Addressing the barrister’s astonishing error, Judge Coleman told Mr Delph on Tuesday: ‘It had this unfortunate outcome for you Mr Delph that I had to approach the sentencing on the basis put forward by the prosecution and defence.’ The judge added: ‘It’s now been accepted that the minimum term does not apply.

‘Free from that it seems only right and proper that I should deal with this matter in a much more lenient way.’ The judge said that as Mr Delph’s weapon had been confiscated, and the ‘danger removed’, he could suspend the sentence.

Country lover Mr Delph worked for Great Ouse River Authority for 30 years after being conscripted to the coal mines during the Second World War as a teenage ‘Bevin Boy’.

Last night, Paula Ogungboro, of Mothers Against Guns, said she had no argument with the pensioner being jailed for carrying the weapon, adding: ‘Whether he’s an old man or a young man is irrelevant.

‘That gun was not safety stored and he had no reason to have it in his car - anybody could have got their hands on it.’

Original report here

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