Cambridgeshire

Wisbech councillor Jonathan Farmer avoids jail term over gun ownership

Councillor Jonathan Farmer Image copyright Fenland DC
Image caption Jonathan Farmer was given the pistol as a gift by a British veteran of WW2

A former town mayor and councillor found guilty of possessing a firearm has avoided an immediate jail term.

Jonathan Farmer, 57, of South Brink, Wisbech, was handed a 21-month jail term, suspended for two years.

He denied the offence, saying the World War Two German Walther PPK pistol was kept as an antique. He was convicted at Cambridge Crown Court in July.

Farmer was also ordered to complete 250 hours of unpaid work. A forfeiture order was made over the gun.

Farmer, who was suspended as a Conservative at Fenland District Council, told the BBC the weapon was a gift from a friend, a British veteran of the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy in 1944.

"He took it off a German officer during the battle, but basically his wife wanted it out of the house, so he gave it to me some years later," he said.

The gun, which he was told had been deactivated, had "sat in a cupboard for about 25 or 30 years".

Speaking before sentencing, Farmer, who was Wisbech's mayor from 2008 to 2009, said the guilty verdict had not surprised him and he fully expected to be jailed.

"If you put a Conservative and a gun in front of a Cambridge jury, you pretty much know the outcome," he said.

Image copyright Cambs Police
Image caption Farmer said he had been told the pistol had been deactivated

Det Con James Bennett said: "This should serve as a warning that anyone who finds, or is given a gun, should alert police at once.

"While there is no suggestion that Farmer planned to use this gun for any criminal purpose, the law is there for a reason - to prevent such weapons ending up in the wrong hands."

The force's firearms manager Ralph Barker said: "People should be assured that if they notify us, they will not get into any trouble. An officer will come round to collect and assess the weapon and advice will be given on how to proceed.

"Often, guns which hold sentimental or historical value can be deactivated and returned to the owner."

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