Farmer freed by top judges

PUBLISHED: 06:00 08 February 2007 | UPDATED: 10:10 31 May 2010

A FARMER given a 12-month sentence for possessing an unusable shotgun has been freed by top judges, who said that he should never have been jailed. Richard Ruben Talks, of Starling s Green, Clavering, was jailed at Peterborough Crown Court last November

A FARMER given a 12-month sentence for possessing an unusable shotgun has been freed by top judges, who said that he should never have been jailed.

Richard Ruben Talks, of Starling's Green, Clavering, was jailed at Peterborough Crown Court last November after admitting possession of a .410 shotgun without a licence.

Mr Justice Roderick Evans - sitting in London's Appeal Court - said Mr Talks, a chicken farmer, was prosecuted after police unearthed the derelict shotgun in a barn on his farm.

"The weapon's stock and trigger plate were missing, and it was not fireable in the normal manner", said the judge.

Forensic tests later revealed that it was utterly useless unless clamped into a vice, and a hammer struck onto its firing pin.

Even if the shotgun was then discharged there was a fair chance it might explode when fired, Mr Talks' barrister, Louis French, told the court.

Mr Talks told police he had acquired the gun from a neighbour, who initially asked him to look after it, but subsequently died.

In later years he all but forgot about its existence, also assuming that he did not require a licence because it was out-of-action.

Mr Justice Evans - sitting with Lord Justice Hooper and Mr Justice Gibbs - said the 52-year-old farmer was held in "high regard" among the rural community, referring to 15 testimonials presented to the court speaking of his good character.

He said a prison sentence had been inappropriate in Mr Talks' case, substituting a one-day sentence - which will secure his immediate release.

Had the Appeal Court substituted a purely "non-custodial" punishment it would have been obliged to impose a fine as well, said the judge, which would have left Mr Talks worse off.

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