Cannabis-smok­ing son is not locked up over his two bar­rels Tears of drug grower

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - School Report - By Paul Hooper

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.

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