Longer jail term for former magistrate who made bombs

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A former magistrate who built up a deadly collection of pipe bombs had his "unduly lenient" five-year jail sentence increased to nine years by the Court of Appeal yesterday.

Jonathan Wilkes, 41, was convicted in January of developing remote-controlled and booby-trapped devices, allegedly with the intention of attacking his former lover and her new boyfriend.

Three judges in London agreed with the Attorney General that the sentence imposed by a judge at Oxford Crown Court was too short. Wilkes was not present yesterday.

The nine devices, water bottles packed with metal nuts and described by counsel for the prosecution at the trial as "truly terrifying in their potential to maim or kill", were discovered at Syreford in Gloucestershire and at Freeland in Oxfordshire in August 2000 by members of the public.

After the discoveries, made three days apart, detectives feared that terrorists were responsible.

Wilkes, a computer consultant who had no previous convictions, was arrested after detectives traced the 40 components found in the bombs to him through their manufacturers, although he had used false names and mailbox addresses. He was found guilty of one count of possessing explosive devices with intent to endanger life in relation to the eight Freeland devices, for which he received the five-year term, and one count of unlawful possession in connection with the Syreford find, for which he received a concurrent 18-month sentence.

After the hearing Detective Superintendent Euan Read, who led the investigation,said: "I have always been of the view that the five-year sentence was clearly wholly inappropriate. These devices were absolutely lethal. I have no doubt that had we not found them before they went off, somebody would have been killed." Det Supt Read, of Thames Valley Police, added: "I am happy that today justice has been done."