Glasgow & West Scotland

Four jailed over weapons stash bound for Scotland

From left, Craig Colquhoun, William Dempsey, James Ashdown and Barry Kelly
Image caption The four men were jailed for conspiracy to buy or sell illegal firearms

Four men have been jailed after a stash of weapons and ammunition - including an Uzi sub-machine gun with silencer - was found at a railway station.

Serving soldier William Dempsey left bags of weapons at Carlisle station after getting off a train to Glasgow.

He collected them from James Ashdown in Kent. They were destined for Barry Kelly and Craig Colquhoun in Scotland.

Dempsey and Ashdown were each jailed for eight years. Kelly was given nine years and Colquhoun seven years.

Dempsey and Ashdown had previously admitted conspiracy to buy or sell illegal firearms.

Kelly and Darvel were found guilty by a jury of the same offences earlier this month.

Liverpool Crown Court heard how Dempsey, 29, from Paisley, left two Army camouflage bags containing the Uzi sub-machine gun, silencer, a handgun and a sawn-off double-barrelled shotgun with two cleaners at the station.

He asked them to look after the bags for him as he thought he was being followed.

The court heard that the mortarman with the 5th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, was dressed in desert combat uniform and had been exhibiting "somewhat bizarre behaviour". He told staff there were snipers at the station.

He had collected the firearms from his friend Ashdown, 32, in Canterbury, where Dempsey's barracks were.

The court heard how the bags, found on 17 August last year, had his name embroidered on them, and also contained Dempsey's identification papers and 194 rounds of ammunition.

They were destined for Kelly, 34, from Darvel, Ayrshire, and Colquhoun, 28, from Barrhead.

A search at Dempsey's barracks uncovered a handgun-shaped crossbow, several metal tipped arrows and large military batteries.

The battalion duty officer confirmed to British Transport Police that no weapons were missing from the armoury.

British Transport Police said Dempsey's mobile phone revealed messages between him and Ashdown regarding large cash payments for "toys" - items believed to be the firearms seized at Carlisle.

Image caption The bags left at the station contained a variety of weapons and ammunition

Further investigation revealed links to both Colquhoun and Kelly. On 16 August last year Colquhoun was captured on CCTV at the Royal Bank of Scotland in Paisley paying £3,500 into Dempsey's account.

While arresting Kelly, Ashdown and Colquhoun police found £20,000 hidden in the loft of Kelly's house.

Prosecutor Nicholas Kennedy said it was not known where the Uzi and handgun were from but the shotgun had been stolen in a burglary at farm buildings in Maidstone in February 2007.

Sentencing the four, Judge Robert Warnock said: "I am wholly satisfied that they [the weapons] were destined for use in serious crime and had a clear potential for causing serious injury and death.

"Had these firearms reached their intended recipients, I have no doubt they would have significantly contributed to the upward spiral of gun crime in this country."

'Complex conspiracy'

The judge told Demspey he had used his uniform to hide what he was doing on the day he was arrested.

"For reasons principally to do with your abuse of alcohol and drugs, you abandoned the firearms at Carlisle station," he said.

"I make it clear, however, that these actions were not motivated by remorse or insight but your befuddled and confused thinking brought on by your alcohol and drug abuse and your consequential paranoia and instability."

The judge told Kelly he was "clearly a relatively sophisticated criminal who is well-versed in the use and abuse of mobile phone technology".

He said his "employee" Colquhoun was a peripheral player in the conspiracy.

The court heard that Ashdown, of no fixed address, was an active street dealer of drugs who was motivated to make money to fund his cocaine habit.

He was jailed for an additional three years for possession and intent to supply cocaine in a separate case.

Mitigating for Dempsey, David Thompson said his client had joined the Army at the age of 17 and had served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

He was described as a "reliable and competent soldier" but his life began to go downhill last July.

He had alcohol and drug problems and had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after his battleground stints.

At the time he entered the firearms conspiracy he had accumulated a drug debt of £5,000.

Mr Thompson said he was exposed to influences in his home town of Paisley - which he had joined the Army to get away from when he was younger.

'Crying shame'

He said Dempsey "in effect abandoned the consignment at the rail station and disappeared into town."

"He tells me he knew he was going to be arrested and was enjoying a final pint of beer."

Mr Thompson said it was "a crying shame" that the defendant had become involved in a conspiracy "diametrically opposed" to the 12 years of service he had given to his country.

"He is filled with remorse for getting involved and the shame he has brought upon his regiment," the barrister said.

The court heard that Kelly maintained his innocence.

Following sentencing, Det Ch Insp Simon Taylor, who led British Transport Police's investigation, said: "These four clearly intended to put illegal firearms on to the streets of Scotland and it is a fair assumption that they would have been used to commit criminal acts or to intimidate people.

"In uncovering and unravelling the complex conspiracy BTP, in partnership with Kent Police and Police Scotland, have taken this potential threat out of circulation and ensured the conviction of four dangerous men."

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