AN OSWESTRY man has been jailed for four years for keeping a sawn-off double-barrelled shotgun.
Royston Pughe, 42, of Shrewsbury Road, Oswestry, claimed he found the illegal weapon on waste ground in Essex.
Pughe pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court to possessing a prohibited firearm on May 25 last year at his then home in Down Hall Road, Matching Green.
But he claimed he had found it about a month before so he should not face the mandatory five years behind bars.
Sentencing was adjourned until Wednesday, March 5, when Pughe, also pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court to producing 39 cannabis plants, which were found by police when they searched his Essex house.
He claimed they were there because he was merely watering them for two weeks as a favour to a friend.
Judge Anthony Goldstaub QC said he accepted Pughe's “slightly improbable” explanation of how he found the German shotgun.
He agreed there were “exceptional circumstances” to mitigate the five-year mandatory term and jailed him for two years.
But he rejected Pughe’s claim about the cannabis plants and imposed a consecutive two-year term for that offence.
The rusty 16 calibre gun was in two parts, with 16 cartridges individually wrapped in tissue paper, in a bucket on waste ground behind Pughe’s Matching Green property.
A fence had blown down in gales and while the panels were being repaired Pughe went on to the field.
He told the court he recognised what it was and put the gun and ammunition in his garage to be thrown away with other rubbish later.
The sacks were later moved into an upstairs bedroom next to the drug factory. He knew it was an illegal weapon but didn’t notify police, he told the court.
The judge said: “The fore end was not with it. A shotgun of this antiquity has three parts, the barrells, the stock and fore end.
“Significantly the defendant didn’t emphasise its absence which suggests that he is indeed, as he says, ignorant of the use and nature of firearms of this kind.”
Prosecutor Maryam Syed said police stopped Pughe in the early hours of May 25 last year in Loughton because of his erratic driving.
He had cocaine concealed in his groin and his breath reading was 65mcg in 100ml of breath – the limit is 35.
The court heard that Pughe had been dealt with by magistrates for those two offences.
Giving evidence, Pughe said: “I went further into the field at the back of the house and I spotted a bucket.
“I looked inside and there was a bag inside and I could see the shotgun. I saw some cartridges wrapped in paper.
“I picked up the two bits of metal, the gun and tried to join them together. I put them back in the bag.”
About a week later he had to empty his garage because of a drainage problem and moved everything into the house.
Pughe said he was going through a relationship split up and family bereavement and didn’t get round to disposing of the gun and other rubbish.
He said: “It was my mistake. I knew it was illegal.”