Robert Downes jailed over disguised stun guns

A man spared prison for having stun guns disguised as mobile phones has been jailed by Appeal Court judges.

Police found six of the weapons at the home of Robert Downes, 61, in Coundon, County Durham, in August last year.

In November he was given a 12-month suspended jail term after admitting possessing disguised firearms, which he said he bought over the internet.

But Downes has now been jailed for five years, after it was ruled the original sentence was "wholly inadequate".

Car boot sale

Three Court of Appeal judges agreed with Solicitor General Oliver Heald that the original 12-month suspended jail term was "unduly lenient" and would not act as a deterrent to others.

He said Parliament had decided that certain firearms offences should carry a mandatory, five-year minimum term unless there were exceptional circumstances.

The court heard the "stun gun" style weapons were found when police searched Downes's home address and a car on 3 August 2012.

The married father-of-two told officers he intended to sell them at a car boot sale for profit.

He pleaded guilty to three counts relating to possession of a firearm disguised as another object and three of possessing a prohibited weapon at Durham Crown Court.

'Serious weapons'

Lord Justice Treacy, imposing a total of five years, said: "We realise that the result is indeed a hard one for the offender, but Parliament has spoken and we must apply the law faithfully."

Mr Heald said in a statement after the ruling: "I referred this sentence to the Court of Appeal because Parliament decided that certain firearms offences should carry a minimum term.

"This is mandatory, unless there are exceptional circumstances, and the court agreed those circumstances were not present in this case.

"I hope this sentence will send out a clear message that possession of these weapons will not be tolerated."

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