A long-standing member of Leominster Rifle and Pistol Club has walked free from court despite being found guilty of affray – and has kept his firearm certificate.
Clive Fletcher, 57, of Marcle Orchard, Brimfield, Ludlow was given an eight month prison sentence suspended for 18 months at Hereford Crown Court on 20th February after pleading guilty to affray, reports the Hereford Times.
According to the newspaper, two members of the club complained to the police about Fletcher after a funding request he had worked on was turned down by the club’s committee. The complainants said Fletcher, a member of the club for 22 years and its treasurer for 10, had been threatening and abusive to them after his funding request was rejected.
Two PCs visited Fletcher’s home in July 2013 and found him in his workshop, apparently working on his rifles. He was said to have become aggressive when the constables asked about the dispute, standing “12 inches” from one, who pushed Fletcher away. Both constables then drew their batons and CS sprays.
This prompted Fletcher to say he would “kill them if they used the spray or hit him”. The two constables sprayed CS gas at Fletcher and PC David Hamilton hit him on the back with his baton. A third constable arrived and arrested Fletcher.
Upon his arrest Fletcher was remanded in custody for six weeks – the equivalent of a three month prison sentence, as the Hereford Times notes. His eventual court-imposed sentence included 150 hours of community service.
Although the Crown Prosecution Service applied for Fletcher’s FAC to be revoked, the judge refused to do so.
It’s surprising that Fletcher kept his FAC despite now having a recent conviction for an offence of violence. Indeed, it’s also surprising that Fletcher’s sentence was suspended, meaning he walked free from court. Perhaps the judge sympathised with a man who was attacked in his workshop by uniformed people carrying weapons who then threw him into jail for a month and a half to await trial.
Even that sympathy is surprising, given that Fletcher has a previous conviction (from the 1980s) for assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH) on policemen who stopped him for a traffic offence – though Fletcher’s witnesses did state this latest offence was completely out of character for him.
What’s even more surprising is that the court didn’t automatically revoke Fletcher’s FAC, as required by section 110 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. This states:
(a)a person has been sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three months or more, and
(b)the sentence is suspended under section 189 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003,
the person shall not have a firearm or ammunition in his possession at any time during the period of five years beginning with the second day after the date on which the sentence is passed.”
That’s pretty unequivocal.