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Saturday, 30 August 2014

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Pellet pistol fired in Cumbrian families' feud

A row between two rival families in west Cumbria ended with a man peppering a car with pellets from a ball-bearing gun.

Kevin Smith, 24, pulled the pistol out of his jacket and aimed it at members of the family with whom there had been “a background of disharmony”.

He pulled the trigger four or five times but no one was hurt – although one man did feel the force from a pellet whistling close past his ear.

Prosecutor Becky McGregor told Carlisle Crown Court that the incident in Valley View Road, Whitehaven, was the result of ill feeling between Smith’s family and the family of Michael Wilson.

The row flared up when he met some of them by chance on the street, and he decided to scare them by firing his gun at them.

As Michael Wilson went back to his car, Smith, of Bowness Road, Greenbank, Whitehaven, took aim.

“Mr Wilson heard something whistle past his ear, a couple of centimetres away, and he felt the pressure in his face as it passed,” Ms McGregor said.

Smith re-cocked the gun and fired again “more times,” Ms McGregor said, but only hit the car, in which Mr Wilson’s friend Claire Topliss was sitting.

Smith then threw the gun into a pond, where it is still, the court heard. After he was arrested Smith told the police: “They had been winding us up all day.”

Smith was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for a year after pleading guilty to using an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear, and to criminally damaging the car.

In mitigation defence barrister Greg Hoare said Smith accepted it had been an “utterly stupid course of action”. But, he said, there had been “no widespread terrorisation.”

Passing sentence, Judge Robert Brown told Smith it was “a foolish thing to do.”

He said: “I don’t necessarily think you had any intention of actually harming anybody, but it was a reckless thing. You could, but for a matter of good luck, have been facing a much more serious charge because if a ball bearing had hit him it could have caused a really serious injury.”

The judge said he took into account the fact that Smith was the full-time carer for his brother who, without him, would have to go into a home.

“On this occasion you are entitled to rely upon that to avoid an immediate custodial sentence,” he told him.

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