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Farmer wins his appeal against five-year term
4:30pm Saturday 6th October 2012 in News
A FARMER who tried to ditch a loaded shotgun in the river because he feared his brother might commit murder has been freed by top judges in London’s Appeal Court.
Jonathan Jeffries, aged 39, was jailed for five years at Worcester Crown Court in July after admitting illegal possession of the 12-bore sawn-off shotgun.
Jeffries, of Orleton, Stanford Bridge, near Tenbury Wells, was prosecuted after he walked into a Worcester police station in January, telling officers he had hurled the shotgun off a bridge over the river at Lower Rochford some months earlier.
Jeffries explained that he had taken the gun from behind some feed bins at the family farm, believing that it belonged to his brother, Jason.
“He said he believed his brother intended to kill him and his parents,” Mr Justice Lindblom told London’s Appeal Court.
He added that Jeffries was in deep fear of his brother.
Jeffries took officers to the place where he had thrown away the gun, said the judge, but they discovered it had landed among bracken along the riverbank, and contained a live cartridge.
At the crown court, Jeffries’ lawyers urged the judge not to pass the usually mandatory five-year term for the firearms offence because of the case’s “exceptional circumstances”.
They pointed out that Jeffries had acted through terror of his brother and the harm he believed he might do to his family.
However, the crown court judge said she had no option but to pass the five-year term in light of the danger posed by the shotgun, which was still in complete working order.
Jeffries challenged the sentence with claims that five years was too harsh in light of the desperation of his situation.
Mr Justice Lindblom, sitting with Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Nicol, pointed out that Jeffries claimed his brother had in the past “threatened to cut his throat and shoot him”.
“He decided for his own and his parents’ safety to remove the gun from their home,” the judge added. “He disposed of it because he feared it might be used by his brother to commit what might have been a dreadful and possibly fatal crime against the family.”
The five-year term was simply too long, he concluded, although it would be wrong to let Jeffries go unpunished, given that any walker could have stumbled on the shotgun.
“We substitute a 12-month sentence, and the effect of doing so will be that he will be released from custody,” the judge concluded.