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Fuming pensioner who fired air rifle at squirrel dodges jail

By Tim Bugler

A lollipop man who took aim with an unlicensed air rifle at a grey squirrel after catching the rodent gnawing the wiring in his loft has been spared jail.

Pensioner Wilson Barrett, 72, a former mechanic, grabbed the gun, which had been gathering dust in a corner of his workshop, after finding that grey squirrels had invaded the roof space of his house and caused "considerable damage", Falkirk Sheriff Court was told.

His pot shots were heard by a neighbour - who raised the alarm.

Ann Orr, prosecuting, said Barrett had been seen by neighbours with the air rifle at his house in Camelon, Falkirk and the police were called.

Mrs Orr said: "He confirmed he didn't have a licence for it and it was seized."

He was cautioned and charged and made no reply.

Barrett, a first offender, of Glasgow Road, Camelon, pleaded guilty to possessing the weapon without a certificate.

The prosecution accepted his plea of not guilty to a second charge, of "recklessly discharging the weapon, in the direction of communal gardens, to the danger and risk of injury to the lieges [members of the public]".

Defence solicitor Dick Sandeman said it was "a rather unusual matter".

He said: "Mr Barrett used to have this rifle in his workplace.

"It had been there for 20 years, forgotten about in a corner.

"He had certain difficulties with grey squirrels in his property.

"They had entered the loft space, chewed through electrical cables, and caused significant damage to the wiring.

"He remembered about this air weapon, brought it home, and he was shooting at a grey squirrel when this was heard by a neighbour and reported to police.

"It's as simple as that."

He said Barrett was a state pensioner, who also earned £240 a month as a lollipop man.

The airgun, he added, was a .22 calibre, and "not a powerful, high-velocity weapon".

Sheriff Simon Collins QC fined Barrett £350, and ordered the forfeiture of the air rifle and pellets.

He said the maximum sentence he could have imposed would have been 12 months imprisonment.

He said: "It seems to me that the public interest in requiring a licence for the possession of weapons, including air weapons, is considerable, and the available penalty, even on summary complaint, rather reflects that."

Barrett declined to comment after the case.

A ban on the possession of airguns without a licence was introduced by the Scottish Government in 2016.

The guns are still perfectly legal to hold without any licence or certificate throughout England and Wales.

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Dive Deeper:
Thursday's headlines: Fuming squirrel shooter dodges jail and killer's Snapchats moments before stabbing
Here are the main headlines on the Daily Record website today.
Yob hurled bag of biscuits at shop worker who accused him of stealing
Jack Hughes hurled the treats at Alison Stevenson in temper after being accused of stealing them.
'Operational' stun gun and blank firearm ammunition found in Durham man's loft
Dean Watts, 30, was given a community order after pleading guilty to the offences
Drunk Grangemouth yob caged after spitting on brother and urinating in police van
David Hiddleston spat at his brother Colin Aitchison as he was being escorted by police.
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Two week-long firearms amnesty launched across Greater Manchester to take deadly weapons off the streets and save lives
'Firearms can always come into the wrong hands and by giving a firearm up, you may be saving a life'
Regent street hammer attacker jailed for 13 years after victims had fractured skulls
One victim received plastic surgery to cover a deep scar following the attack
Get all your news in one place