Herefordshire drug farmer jailed for seven years

Ledbury Reporter: Herefordshire drug farmer jailed for seven years Herefordshire drug farmer jailed for seven years

Cannabis farmer and gun enthusiast Malcolm White who was "living outside the law" in a village near Bromyard has been jailed for seven years.

White, cleared by a jury earlier this week of deliberately shooting a burglar at his home at Stocking Gobbetts, Whitbourne, near Bromyard, had earlier admitted firearms and cannabis production charges, Worcester Crown Court heard.

He has also voluntarily handed over more than £78,000 to police so there will be no further recovery proceedings.

White had a "real arsenal" of weapons hidden around his house including three handguns - a blanks firing pistol, a revolver and a starting gun - which were all in a prohibited category.

Simon Phillips, prosecuting, said police found one of the pistols, an 8mm rifle and a shotgun in his airing cupboard and the Olympic starting pistol in a cardboard box in the hallway.

A .22 rifle was under his bed, fitted with a scope and silencer. Inside a wardrobe, he had a Manton big game rifle - an "elephant gun," Mr Phillips said.

He also had ammunition including a solid slug lead bullet, 15 12-bore cartridges and 12lbs of nitro and tools for making more ammunition.

He had 2,000 rounds of ammuntion for the guns, more than the 1,200 he was allowed and in his workshop in Caroline Street, Birmingham. 

The  jury in the unlawful wounding trial which ended on Wednesday heard the 64-year-old had three rooms in his garage turned over to the production of cannabis plants.

He had spent £20,000 on sophisticated equipment to grow the 65 plants, which were worth £18,000 but were capable of producing a crop worth between £55,000 and £65,000 annually.

A jury decided that White, a retired clock repairer, accidentally shot burglar Robert Richards, who was part of a gang trying to break into his home on October 5, 2011.

Police called to the scene discovered the cannabis and also the firearms.

Fourteen of these were licensed and kept in a locked cabinet but the rest were not on his list and were therefore illegal, Mr Phillips told the court.

White had told the jury many of the guns had belonged to his late father who was a collector and he had kept them because of his own enthusiasm for firearms.

Brian Dean, defending, said White had had many of the guns for 18 years since his father died and had not used them for the wrong purposes. He had used one to shoot vermin and another to train his gundog.

The three handguns were the only prohibited weapons, he said, as all the others could have been added to the shotgun and firearms certificates that White held.

His basis of plea for the cannabis was that he had once rented out stables to people who he discovered were growing the Class B drug and who threatened to "carve his wife up" if he did not help them out.

After they left, he later used some of the equipment himself with the intention of distilling it to take for his own personal use to relieve his arthritis.

Mr Dean said White had been terrified about the trial and had signed away everything he owned so it could all be over and there would be no proceeds of crime act pursuit.

Judge Robert Juckes said White had been "living outside the law" by growing cannabis which made it a particular risk that the illegal guns would fall into the wrong hands.

He had chosen to ignore the laws on firearms and had built a "real arsenal" and had the weapons scattered insecurely around the house.

White, he said, had been a hard-working man of good character.

He gave him a prison sentence of six years in total on the three offences involving the handguns, one year each to run concurrently for the other firearms offences and 12 months for the production of cannabis, making a total of seven years.

He has been in custody for more than two years since the raid on his house.

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