Man avoids jail after firearm discovery

York Crown Court

York Crown Court

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A cache of firearms, knives, swords, ammunition and even crossbows were found by police after raiding a man’s house near Malton.

The police swoop on Peter John Lyle’s rural home in Great Habton unearthed a cornucopia of military items and knives, including a machete.

Lyle, 39, was arrested and charged with two counts of possessing ammunition and one of possessing a firearm without a certificate. He appeared at York Crown Court for sentence last week after pleading guilty to the charges at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court in June.

The Crown heard that the police raid took place on February 16 at Lyle’s cottage, where he lives with his wife and child.

During the search, police found a crossbow, four swords and a machete in a bedroom cupboard, along with five animal traps with a clamp and three air rifles. Another rifle was found lying on the bed.

Police also found a 0.22-calibre rifle which had been converted from a shotgun in the cupboard, among other weapons.

Prosecutor Adam Mugliston said the weaponry could be easily accessed by anyone living in the house.

He added that the firearm without a certificate had been discharged, although only for test-firing and with no-one else around. It had been converted from a 12-bore shotgun by inserting a rifle barrel.

When quizzed by officers, Lyle told them he had found the shotgun wrapped in a plastic bag in a hedge. He said he was fully aware that possessing the weapon was illegal and intended to hand it in to police, but never got round to it.

The court was told that the maximum sentence for possessing such a firearm without a licence was five years in prison. The maximum sentence for two counts of possessing ammunition for such a weapon was 10 years’ imprisonment.

Chris Dunn, mitigating, said that Lyle lived in a rural setting and only had an interest in knives for hunting purposes. He added that there would be nothing to stop Lyle buying the weapons all over again as they were lawful with the relevant licence.

He urged Mr Justice Jackson to suspend any sentence he imposed.

Mr Dunn told the judge that Lyle had no record of violence and there was nothing on his criminal record to suggest that his liking of air rifles was anything other than an interest.

The defence counsel said that Lyle had suffered a series of family tragedies including the deaths of his 18-month-old daughter and his father.

He added that the converted rifle “clearly” wasn’t for criminal purposes and that the ammunition could be bought from all firearms stores with the relevant licence.

“Certainly he wasn’t holding it (the firearm) to hold up a bank or rob a building society,” said Mr Dunn.

But Mr Justice Jackson said: “It’s a matter of concern that this man has an interest in collecting weapons and had a firearm with a large quantity of ammunition.”

Mr Justice Jackson said that although Lyle should have handed the firearm in to police immediately, his life had been “overtaken” by a series of tragic events.

He added these tragedies – Lyle lost his 18-month-old daughter in an accident and his grandfather in November 2013 – had had a “devastating” impact on him.

The judge said that these “exceptional” mitigating circumstances had persuaded him not to impose an immediate custodial sentence.

Instead, he sentenced Lyle to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years, during which he will have to undergo supervision by the Probation Service.

He was also ordered to carry out 250 hours’ unpaid work in the community and subjected to a four-month curfew under which he will not be able to leave his home address between 8pm and 6am.

Mr Justice Jackson also ordered the confiscation of the uncertified firearm and ammunition, and the destruction of all the other items seized at Lyle’s home.

“This sentence should not be viewed as a lenient sentence,” said Mr Justice Jackson. “I have taken an exceptional course, having regard to the mitigation and the devastating impact (of the family tragedies) upon Mr Lyle and his remaining child, for whose care Mr Lyle plays a significant role.”

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