An illegal online gun trader, who sold blank starting pistols that could be converted to fire C.S. gas and other toxic substances, received a suspended prison sentence today.
Butcher John Rhodes, 37, of London Street, Fleetwood, Lancashire was investigated by Scotland Yard after a suspected drug dealer was caught with one of the weapon's in the boot of his Audi Q7 during a police swoop.
“You were not aware their sale or transfer was an illegal activity,” Isleworth Crown Court Recorder John Hobson QC told the defendant. “They are not capable of firing bullets or projectiles, but are capable of firing gas or pepper.
“They are capable of being used offensively, they are capable of causing harm if they fall into the wrong hands.”
He sentenced Rhodes to nine months imprisonment, suspended for eighteen months, and ordered him to perform 150 hours community service work.
The court heard the father-of-three placed ads on a site called 'Gunstar' for a variety of firearms, typically selling them for £150-£250.
They were usually advertised as blank-firing guns that did not require a firearms licence and customers incuded a Colt 45 purchaser, who needed the gun for a World War Two re-enactment and a security consultant who worked in Afghanistan.
He pleaded guilty halfway through his jury trial to twenty-two counts of selling or transferring a weapon designed or adapted for the discharge of gas on or before September 13, 2011 and one count of selling or transferring a Heckler & Koch MPSK-PDW air weapon without a firearms certificate.
A total of twenty-four firearms were seized by police and eighteen will be destroyed with the remainder to be held for future reference purposes.
Rhodes' online identity was 'Johnshotgun' and 'JJMilitaria' and after opening the 'Gunstar' account in 2010 he then set up a second account on another firearms website in 2011.
Police raided his address on September 13, 2011 and Rhodes, who is not the holder of a firearms certificate, told officers he bought the weapons from abroad and thought they were legal.
He estimted his total sales were in the region of fifty firearms and started the business: “To make a couple of quid.”
Rhodes had a small amount of cocaine in his pocket and was cautioned for that offence, claiming he had bought the drug, but not consumed it during a recent night out.
The charges, relate to a Umarex Walther P22; Retay Desert Eagle; three Umarex Colt 1911's; Zoraki 925; Walther P22 forearm.
Rohm RG3; Ekol Viper; Heckler & Koch P30 Walther PP; Ekol Jackal Dual.
Colt 1911; Ekol Special 99; Colt Government 1911; Ekol Jackal Dual blank-firing pistol; Walther P22 blank-firing pistol.
Colt 45 blank-firing pistol; Saver P239 blank-firing pistol; Walther P99 blank-firing pistol; Ekol Viper; Heckler & Koch MPSK-PDW air weapon and a Walther P22 blank-firing pistol.
His lawyer Mr. James Bourne-Arton told the court: “There were no gas cartridges recovered from Rhodes' address and no one bought a gun and then bought any cartridges.”
The firearms are legal in Germany and the lawyer added: “You would be better off arming yourself with a cricket bat, baseball bat or a knife.
“There have been no connections here to any acts of violence.”