NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Man who 'unwittingly' stole gun jailed for five years

A thief from Moray who "unwittingly" stole a gun from the house of a widow has been jailed for five years.

Guy Whitelaw, 28, from Forres, told police he discovered the handgun in a cash box he took from the house.

Whitelaw admitted having the gun and was given minimum jail term for illegal possession of a firearm.

He told the court the victim, a 63-year-old woman who said the gun had belonged to her late husband, should be prosecuted for not having a permit.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard Whitelaw broke into the house in March and took jewellery, money and the cash box containing the handgun.

The court heard Whitelaw considered handing the weapon in to police, but panicked and instead hid it in his garden at Anderson Crescent in Forres.

When officers investigating the break-in tracked him down he led them to the gun, which was in poor condition but capable of firing.

The court heard the gun had belonged to the victim's late husband but she had "effectively forgotten" about it.

Whitelaw's solicitor advocate Ian Cruickshank argued that exceptional circumstances did exist in the case that could allow the judge not to impose the minimum five years imprisonment.

He said the Crown had conceded that Whitelaw would not have known the gun was in the house and that he had no knowledge of the presence of the weapon.

'Pay the consequences'

Mr Cruickshank said Whitelaw was "horrified" when he discovered the gun and as an "interim measure" buried the gun in the garden.

The defence lawyer said Whitelaw had perhaps "unwittingly" committed the second crime of possessing the gun after the break-in.

Judge Lord Woolman told him there were no exceptional circumstances to allow him to escape the minimum jail term of five years for illegal possession of a firearm.

He said: "You knew what you were doing was wrong and you must pay the consequences.

"The unlawful possession and use of firearms is a grave source of danger to society."

Lord Woolman also imposed a four-month sentence for the break-in, to run concurrently.

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