Cannabis-smoking son is not locked up over his two barrels Tears of drug grower
A form of “antiques” roadshow came to a courtroom – to discuss the threat posed by a double-barrelled shotgun.
Its owner, Philip Fritz, claimed he found the weapon and kept it because its muchcoveted ‘Damascus’ barrels “looked pretty”.
But prosecutors said it needed a shotgun licence and was therefore was held illegally.
Two firearms experts were summoned to Canterbury Crown Court to argue if the gun, believed to be at least 109 years old, was an antique and therefore exempt under the 1968 Firearms Act.
Prosecutor Edmund Burge said that the Home Office definition of an antique did not depend only on the age of the gun.
It had been discovered in a lock up garage in Parkgate, Tenterden, last August where father-of-two Fritz, of St Anne’s Road, Ashford, was growing 68 cannabis plants.
Police, called to the area for another reason, smelled cannabis and, although Fritz tried to convince them he had just smoked a joint, they found a mini-factory capable to producing three kilos of skunk cannabis worth up to £ 40,000 if sold on the street.
They also discovered the weapon, which had a hole in the barrel and could not be fired without modification. No ammunition was found.
In fact, given its condition it posed a greater risk to the person firing the weapon, Mr Burge told the court.
Fritz, who admitted producing cannabis, was expecting to face a jury trial on the shotgun charge but after discussions between lawyers and experts, the £ 600-a-week roofer changed his plea to guilty to possessing a shotgun without a certificate.
His barrister Dominic Webber said the guilty plea was on the basis that the 1904 gun was “incomplete and the firing pin had been removed”. It could not fire modern cartridges nor “discharge a cartridge with a shot”.
But Mr Burge said if thieves had stolen the weapon, it could have been in working condition within 15 minutes.
Mr Webber said that Fritz was growing the cannabis partially to sell but also to use himself and for his father, who suffers from multiple sclerosis.
Fritz wept as he was given a 15-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, for the cannabis growing with no separate penalty for the shotgun offence.
He was also ordered to remain at his home between 8pm and 4am for the next year and pay £1,200 costs.
The weapon, along with the equipment used to grow the cannabis, was ordered to be destroyed.