QUICK THINKING CAMERA OPERATOR NABS GUN MAN — (This is South Devon)

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This is South Devon

BY STAFF REPORTER NEWSDESK@HERALDEXPRESS.CO.UK

11:00 – 20 May 2008

A man caught with a loaded gun in Newton Abbot suffers from physical and mental health problems, a court heard. Philip Thompson was spotted by a CCTV operator in the town carrying the pistol in the dead of night on the footbridge over the A380 near Penn Inn on February 9.

The 50-year-old of Sandringham Road, Newton Abbot, was staggering and unable to walk in a straight line, prosecutor Philip Sewell told magistrates in Torquay.

Police officers were alerted by CCTV operators and attended the scene.

They found a loaded air pistol and a tin of ammunition inside the bag Thompson was carrying. The bag also contained 7.7 grammes of cannabis resin.

Thompson pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing a Crossman 2240 air pistol in public and possession of the class C drug.

He was sentenced to a 12 month community order complete with 12 month supervision order, a three month curfew and a 12 month ban on owning or possessing a firearm or any other weapon.

Speaking after Thompson was sentenced, Teignbridge Police CCTV Liaison Officer Chris Long commended colleague Trevor Austin for his quick-thinking.

He said: “He remained very alert and if he had not been so, or if CCTV was not in place, then someone could potentially have ended up injured.

“During court proceedings it was heard that he had a small tin of ammunition on him when he was caught by police.

“This case serves to highlight the importance of CCTV in detecting crime and if any suspicious behaviour is seen, we can act quickly to prevent any potential situation from developing or getting out of control.”

Magistrates at Torquay, heard Thompson had picked the gun up from a friend’s house and had stopped off at the pub on his way home.

Thompson told police he was not aware the gun was loaded.

However, he was caught on CCTV camera apparently ‘loading the weapon,’ Mr Sewell said.

Sarah French, defending, said Thompson was being treated by the community mental health team and had been prescribed medication for depression and panic attacks following a traumatic childhood.

She said he had been using guns responsibly all of his life, after being taught to shoot by his grandfather at the age of 10.

She said: “He uses air weapons in order to shoot small birds and animals, which he eats himself.

“He is normally somebody who is responsible with weapons.

“He was in the Territorial Army for three years and was trained in the use of weapons in accordance with MOD guidelines.”

Miss French said Thompson’s life subsequently fell apart following his ‘traumatic childhood’.

He moved to Devon when his marriage broke down six years ago and spent 14 months living in a van, which had an adverse affect on his physical and mental health, she explained.

Miss French said Thompson admitted he had been to the pub prior to his arrest, but disputes he was drunk.

She said he had drank five cans of cider, watered down with ice and soda water.

“At 10pm it was time for him to take his medication and he took it coupled with the cider and clearly there was some sort of reaction between the two,” she said.

“He does not think he was drunk but that his judgement was affected by the cider and the prescribed medication.

“He accepts he lives a fairly reclusive lifestyle but says alcohol is not a problem for him. He does enjoy a drink socially.

“He was on his way home when the offence was committed at 12.45am and recorded by CCTV.

“His is not trying to minimise his actions but he is adamant there was nobody else around at that particular time. There was traffic but not people.

“He denies he was shooting at traffic, but at roosting pigeons.”

Chairman of the bench Judith Mears told Thompson he had committed a ‘serious’ offence.

She said: “Considering your involvement with the Territorial Army and your interest and use of a firearm in country life we would have expected you to be a little bit more concerned about carrying a firearm into a pub.

“We believe your judgement was affected by the alcohol and your medication and believe that you are now aware that the two do not mix.”

Magistrates ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the weapon, ammunition and cannabis and ordered Thompson to pay £60 costs.

After he was sentenced, Miss French said Thompson was aware his hearing had been time consuming and costly and he wanted to apologise for that.

Last year, surveillance cameras around the streets in towns across Teignbridge resulted in more than 500 arrests and the recovery of almost £60,000 worth of shoplifted goods.

During the last month alone there have been 73 CCTV-related arrests and almost £4,000 goods have been seized.

The cameras monitor nearly 50 locations across the district, including Newton Abbot, Bovey Tracey, Chudleigh and Dawlish.

The Newton Abbot-based control room team works in partnership with the police and local businesses.

Last year the small unit became the first CCTV operation in Devon and Cornwall to receive an official commendation from the police.