19 Feb 2016 – Registered firearms dealer Anthony Buckland of Norwich has been sentenced to six years in prison after being found guilty of possessing and transferring prohibited firearms. His associate James Arnold was found to have the UK’s biggest ever cache of illegal firearms.
Buckland, a 65-year-old from Stoke Holy Cross, was also found guilty on nine counts of fraud by false representation, related to his lawful business of converting prohibited section 5 firearms into section 1 straight-pulls that are legal to own.
Police subsequently raided Buckland’s customers to seize converted section 5 firearms from them.
He was found guilty, after a jury trial in December, of a total of 20 offences. As well as the 9 fraud counts, Buckland was also convicted on 9 charges of transferring a prohibited weapon, one of possession (a disguised firearm, reportedly an obsolete walking stick shotgun), and one count of transferring an illegal pistol.
Today’s sentencing hearing took place at Norwich Crown Court. Under current rules Buckland is likely to serve no more than 3 years before being released on licence, though he is now subject to a lifetime’s ban on possessing any firearm as a result of the sentence.
Amongst the raft of charges he faced, Buckland was accused of inventing a fictitious customer, JJ Hambrose, in order to get legally held firearms off his register.
Buckland was arrested after his friend James Arnold was arrested by police, which revealed a huge cache of illegal firearms in Arnold’s possession.
James Arnold: ‘Biggest ever’ illegal gun stash in the UK
Arnold, a Wyverstone crane driver, had amassed a collection of 463 firearms at his Potash Road home. He held an FAC with 17 slots for legally owned firearms, including hunting and target shooting, though the vast majority of his illicit collection – which was hidden behind a false wall in his house – were prohibited section 5 weapons and unlicensed.
Police discovered his illegal collection after raiding Arnold’s home to arrest him following an allegation of assault. The Daily Mail reported that Suffolk Police claimed they planned to revoke his certificate once the allegation had been made, though this appears to UKSN to be a claim made with 20/20 hindsight.
Upon entering Arnold’s house, police found guns strewn on the living room floor, which prompted them to make a full search. Later investigations revealed at least five of the guns in the huge stash were registered to Buckland. The discovery prompted police to raid and arrest Buckland.
Detective Superintendent Steve Mattin of Suffolk Police told the Mail: “He [Arnold] seemed very set on the idea he was keeping people safe by looking after these weapons. He certainly didn’t see himself as a danger to others. But by the time we came across him, his life seemed to be deteriorating.”
“Of course,” added Det Supt Mattin, “the fear was that they could fall into the wrong hands or, given that he had terminal cancer, something might change in his life and he would have access to hundreds of deadly weapons.”
Chief Superintendent David Skevington, who headed up the investigation, codenamed Operation Cannington, said: “We have asked every question and followed every line of inquiry and have found no evidence of a criminal or terrorist motive. The best explanation to date is that he was a collector and a hoarder who collected these weapons in the way some people collect stamps.”
77 of Arnold’s guns were analysed by the National Ballistics Intelligence Service. No evidence was found to link them with any crimes.
Arnold died of cancer while in prison and awaiting trial, having been charged with two counts of assault and four counts of possessing a prohibited weapon. His wife, who still lives in their house, was reportedly not aware of his illicit collection.
The Mirror reported:
“He had 136 handguns, 177 rifles, 88 shotguns, 38 machine guns, over 400 detonators – including some which could be activated electronically by mobile phone, and 1000ft of detonating cord. Among his collection was a WWII Mauser pistol bearing a Third Reich ‘eagle’ stamp, .303 rifles dating to the Boer War, several AK47s, a brand-new Bren gun from 1947 and a .50 calibre aircraft machine gun taken from a B17 Flying Fortress.”
From photographs in the Mirror and the Daily Mail, Arnold’s collection included some startling items. UK Shooting News’ author spotted:
- two SA80s (an LSW A1 and what looks like an L85A1 rifle, albeit missing key components such as the buttplate and the change lever, and fitted with the LSW rear handle);
- a Browning M2 machine gun;
- a 9mm Calico carbine;
- a Soviet PPSh-41 sub-machine gun from WW2;
- a variety of Sten guns of different marks, from WW2;
- an original early AK-47 fitted with a bipod;
- a Vietnam War-era M16A1;
- various L1A1 SLRs and FN FALs;
- an original Stg.44, the very first assault rifle ever made, dating from Nazi Germany;
- many assorted pistols and revolvers, including Colt 1911s and Lugers;
- a spent LAW anti-tank rocket launcher;
- a fully suppressed Sten or Schmeisser SMG;
- an Uzi, complete with bayonet;
- various sawn-off shotguns;
- a handful of Thompson SMGs;
- sundry spare parts, including: a spare Bren barrel; SMLE receivers and bolts; Mauser bolts; gas parts and barrels for other firearms;
- a Heckler & Koch G3 rifle;
- an original US WW2 ‘Grease Gun’ SMG
- a .303″ Martini Enfield
Police policy is normally to destroy all seized firearms, though Wiltshire Police claimed last year that a number of historic firearms handed in during a surrender campaign would be transferred to museums.