Spared prison

A former BT mechanic terrified his wife by waving a loaded shotgun around their house in a drunken Christmas outburst.

A former BT mechanic terrified his wife by waving a loaded shotgun around their house in a drunken Christmas outburst.

Exeter Crown Court heard 59-year-old Michael Densham was on a cocktail of prescribed medication, combined with alcohol, when he took the "gardening gun" from on top of the wardrobe and began waving it about.

His wife Linda was so petrified that she telephoned her mother in the early hours of the morning, hysterical and screaming and shouting that Densham had the gun and was threatening to shoot her.

Her mother was so concerned that she put through an emergency 999 call to the police. When they arrived at Barrowdale Close, Exmouth they found the gun in the airing cupboard and, despite Densham telling them it was not loaded, they found a live round in the barrel and another close by. In all they found 22 live rounds of nine millimetre rim-fire cartridges at the property.

Although the barrel of the gun had not been shortened, because of its age, it was less than the regulation 24 inches and was described as a 'gardening gun used to shoot rats.'

Prosecutor Ann Hampshire said the weapon was in full working order and potentially lethal.

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Mitigating Gareth Evans said the Denshams had been married 27 years and his wife had never wanted the case to come to court. Her husband had been given the gun by a friend and it had lain unused on the top of the wardrobe until this sad incident.

"He is extremely frightened that he might go to prison and since this incident has not been into a pub or even a supermarket that sells alcohol," said Mr Evans. "He is virtually teetotal and realised that alcohol had exacerbated his stress related problems. The couple are now back together and living a full and happy life. He is in much better health than he was and is hoping to get a part time job with Coast Watch. He had also been involved in charity work and is assessed as an extremely low risk of re-offending."

Densham had pleaded not guilty to possessing the bolt action shotgun with intent to cause fear of violence but guilty to the lesser charge of possessing a firearm. These pleas were accepted by the prosecution.

He was given a community order for 12 months, coupled with 12 months supervision, and ordered to pay costs of �263.

Passing sentence, Judge Philip Wassall told Densham: "The courts have to be very careful in dealing with firearms offences because there are incidents where even possessing such a weapon without a certificate can lead to custody. This was plainly a genuine weapon but not a sawn-off shotgun. It is donkey's years old and known as a gardening gun for shooting vermin. Your wife did not realise you were on such powerful medication for stress and I have read a moving letter from her saying that you are now back together and much happier. There was no use of this firearm that night that says you should go straight into custody.