Jail for sniper who claimed gun ‘kept public safe’

The High Court in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin
The High Court in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin
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A FORMER army sniper caught with a large cache of firearms and ammunition has been jailed for five years.

Hugh Hunter insisted he only had the stash – which included a pistol, a Second World War rifle and 3,500 bullets – to help rid the country of gun crime.

He told police he was not planning anything illegal and had only bought the arsenal to keep it away from gangsters.

Hunter, 58, said he “feared for the wider community” and had planned to safely dump the guns and ammunition before officers swooped at his Lanarkshire home in August last year.

But a judge dismissed his “altruistic” claims, branding them “implausible” and “incredible”.

Lord Turnbull jailed him for five years after Hunter earlier pled guilty to ten firearms charges at the High Court in Glasgow. The grandfather was held by police after concerns were raised when he was spotted walking his dog in a field near his home in Libberton, South Lanarkshire.

Two men out hunting wildlife believed Hunter had been in possession of a pistol. A team of 14 officers, including a firearms unit, later raided the house Hunter shared with his wife.

It emerged that he had served with the Territorial Army’s Lowland infantry in the 1970s and 1980s. He told police that he had been a fully trained sniper and firearms instructor.

At the time of the search on 
8 August last year, Hunter was also a registered shotgun holder.

But officers soon seized other items which were illegal to possess. Police found a loaded Iraqi pistol in a safe as well as an air-cartridge revolver. A bolt-action rifle was discovered elsewhere in the property, along with a silencer and thousands of bullets.

Prosecutor Angela Gray said: “This item is a lethal weapon, which is commonly used in crime and is very easy to use.”

The revolver was a type of airgun that had been banned in 2003. The bolt-action rifle, described as a “very accurate weapon”, was an old military firearm, but was in working order.

Police questioned Hunter, who runs an engineering firm, and he admitted he had a long-standing interest in shooting.

He claimed he had bought the massive haul from a local man for £1,000.

Advocate depute Miss Gray told the court: “He said he had made the purchase with the intention of destroying them to prevent them being used on the streets of Glasgow and Edinburgh. This was motivated by concern for his own grandchildren and the wider community.

“He had them locked away until he had time to take them to a disused mineshaft nearby, but had been unable to due to work commitments. It had been his intention to destroy them the weekend following the police search.”

Hunter insisted his decision to buy the guns and ammunition had been “stupid”.

Shahid Latif, defending, said it was an “anxious and difficult case” but he could not claim “exceptional circumstances” to avoid a mandatory jail term.

Sentencing, Lord Turnbull told Hunter: “Firearms of this sort are deadly and can fall into the hands of others for the most serious of criminal purposes. I regard it as implausible and incredible that you purchased them because you thought they were a danger to others and wanted to dispose of them.”