1 Mar 2016 – A judge has reportedly said she hopes police will carry out an “investigation” against an SGC holder – despite a jury clearing him of possessing his shotgun with intent to cause fear of violence.
Judge Adele Williams – who once threatened to have a police digital forensic expert jailed for contempt of court after he ignored a court order in a criminal trial – made her comments after 46-yr-old Oliver Anning was cleared of all charges in Canterbury Crown Court.
“In my opinion he brought this prosecution on himself,” the Kent Online website reported her as saying – as she allegedly* refused to make a costs order in Anning’s favour, bizarrely claiming she had no power to do so, thereby leaving the independent finance manager to pay for his legal team himself.
Anning was accused of firing his shotgun two or three times in the early hours one morning in August 2015 after two teenagers parked their car outside his rural home at Park Farm, near Pluckley in Kent. He testified that he fired the gun pointed away from the group, having seen car lights and heard voices.
The court also heard that Anning had been “pestered” by youths for the previous two nights running and he felt “threatened”.
The two 18-year-olds, named as James Sparks and Amber Mason, both of Rainham, Kent, said in court that they, along with a larger group, had driven in a convoy of three cars – an MG, an Audi and a BMW – into nearby Dering Wood.
They claimed their late night expedition was to see whether the woods were haunted.
The two went on to claim that they had seen a van driver behaving strangely in the woods before speeding off. They said they found the van abandoned in the road near Anning’s farm and stopped to call the police, which was when they became aware of shots being fired.
“I went out early with the dogs and then came back in again,” Anning told police. “Then another car appeared and the horn was tooted. I went out with the dogs again and I shined the torch but they didn’t go away and on my own land I fired a couple of shots and said ‘go away’ out of stress.”
After the shots were fired, Mason said she lay down in the back of the car while Sparks drove to meet police nearby.
In my opinion, going by her reported remarks, Judge Williams was hoping Anning would be found guilty. I don’t think her statement presumes innocence on the defendant’s part at all because it strongly implies that his conduct meant he deserved to be arrested and prosecuted, which is what happens to criminals who commit crimes. Moreover, calling for a separate investigation by the firearms licensing department clearly indicates that the judge expects some form of extra-judicial action to be taken by the police against this innocent man.
Thankfully for Anning the jury cleared him, and judges are not empowered to overrule juries in this country.
* Williams’ supposed refusal to make a costs order, apparently on the grounds that she doesn’t have the power to do so – which UK Shooting News’ author does not believe has been accurately reported by Kent Online, as Crown court judges most definitely do have the power to make costs orders – could be read in a number of ways, particularly in the current political climate around the costs of the court service.
For years shooting solicitors have warned that judges invariably side with the police when making costs decisions in firearms cases, regardless of the jury’s verdict. Having been deprived of his costs, Anning has in effect been fined a four or five figure sum (a rough estimate of fees for a barrister in a Crown court trial) for the privilege of proving his innocence – and he might yet be subject to extra-judicial punishment, with the evident approval of the judge, by having his SGC revoked and his shotguns seized by police.