Four jailed over plan to smuggle firearms into Scotland

Part of the haul recovered by police. Picture: PA
Part of the haul recovered by police. Picture: PA
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FOUR men who planned to smuggle illegal firearms into Scotland have been jailed for a total of 32 years.

William Dempsey, 29, Barry Kelly, 34, Craig Thomson Colquhoun, 28, and James Martin Ashdown, 32, were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court yesterday for their parts in the plot to sell the weapons in Scotland.

Dempsey, from Paisley, Renfrewshire, was a private serving with the 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland in Canterbury, when he got off a north-bound train at Carlisle in August last year, the court heard.

Dressed in desert combat uniform and carrying two military camouflage bags, the serving mortarman told two cleaners at the station that he believed he was being followed by police officers and that there were snipers at the station, the court was told.

He left the bags and when he failed to return, British Transport Police opened them to find a cache of weapons, including an Uzi sub-machine gun with silencer, a sawn-off shotgun, a handgun and a variety of ammunition, together with documentation belonging to Dempsey. A police search got under way for Dempsey who was eventually found on a rail viaduct.

Dempsey’s quarters at Howe army barracks were searched and a “handgun” crossbow, several metal-tipped arrows and large military batteries were found. His bedroom in his parents’ home in Paisley yielded a small block of cannabis resin.

No weapons were missing from the armoury but messages on Dempsey’s mobile phone with Ashdown referred to large cash payments for “toys”, believed to be the firearms found in Carlisle, the court heard.

Links were also found to Kelly and Colquhoun, from Barrhead, East Renfrewshire, who was seen on CCTV on 16 August, 2012, at the Royal Bank of Scotland in Paisley paying £3,500 to Dempsey’s account.

Cash totalling £20,000 was found hidden in Kelly’s home in Darvel, East Ayrshire, and officers found Ashdown, of no fixed abode, had supplied the firearms originally.

Dempsey and Ashdown pleaded guilty to firearms offences earlier this year. Kelly and Colquhoun, who denied five charges involving conspiracy to buy or sell firearms, were found guilty by a jury in Liverpool on 11 October.

All four men were sentenced yesterday with Dempsey jailed for eight years, Kelly for nine years, Colquhoun seven years and Ashdown eight years, plus an extra three for a separate offence for possession of drugs with intent to supply.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that Kelly maintained his innocence.

Ashdown was a cocaine addict who wanted to sell the firearms and ammunition and used Dempsey and his connections in Paisley to do so, the court was told.

As he was led to the cells, Dempsey claimed his co-defendants, Kelly and Colquhoun, had been victims of police corruption. He shouted: “Barry Kelly and Craig Colquhoun have been set up.”

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Taylor, who led British Transport Police’s investigation, said: “These four clearly intended to put illegal firearms on to the streets of Scotland and it is a fair assumption that they would have been used to commit criminal acts or to intimidate people.”