Police chief gave evidence for gun dealer

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The Independent Online
A senior police officer made a plea for leniency for a suspected gangland gun supplier even though detectives found 27 illegally held weapons, a silencer and 800 rounds of ammunition when they raided his home.

Commander John Allinson, former head of operations at Scotland Yard, retired after the incident, but full details of the dealer's armoury have remained secret until now. Police correspondence obtained by the Independent shows that the 66-year- old man, who was also a Scotland Yard informer, was licensed by Sussex police to hold 12 shotguns, even though he had known links with criminals in London dating back at least 10 years.

When he was arrested in 1994 on suspicion of supplying the gun that killed Donald Urquhart, a millionaire businessman murdered in a contract killing in London in 1992, detectives found a huge cache of unregistered weapons and ammunition, including deadly solid slug bullets and at least one sawn-off shotgun.

Despite the find, Mr Allinson gave evidence in chambers to Judge Eric Wrintmore at Chichester Crown Court in November 1992. The man was fined pounds 1,800 and avoided a custodial sentence. An inquiry into Mr Allinson's intervention found he had done nothing wrong.

Last night, Alun Michael, Labour's home affairs spokesman, said the incident was likely to result in fresh calls for tighter gun control. "I will be asking the Home Secretary to look into the matter. It seems extraordinary to me that, when one of the biggest problems facing us is the easy availability of illegal arms, a man like this can get a licence," he said.

Correspondence from Sussex police to Chichester Crown Court officials shows that when Metropolitan Police officers raided the man's home in Worthing, West Sussex, they found 11 brand-named Greener, Harlington, Remmington, Stevens, Rae and Acciaio shotguns, two Crossman rifles, a Smith and Wesson rifle, a Ruger revolver, an unbranded revolver, two Colt pistols, a low-powered saloon pistol and five other pistols. In addition, the judge ordered the confiscation of 800 rounds of ammunition, several spare gun barrels and a .22 sound moderator, or silencer. There were also the 12 licensed shotguns. Court records, which were withdrawn because the informant is understood to have been put under police protection, show that at least one of the shotguns had been "shortened" - or sawn off - contrary to the Firearms Act.

Last night, Mike George, technical editor of Sporting Gun magazine, said: "Normally, holding a sawn-off shotgun is enough to get someone a custodial sentence. And, if they have links with criminals, they aren't supposed to get a gun licence in the first place.

Sergeant Bill Ruddock of Sussex police confirmed that the man had been issued with a firearms certificate covering 12 shotguns. Despite one claim that the man had a conviction from the 1970s for possession of a firearm without a licence, Sgt Ruddock said the police national computer showed he had no criminal record before 1994.