Officer jailed for stealing firearms

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The Independent Online

A police firearms officer's 22-year career was in ruins last night after he was jailed for six months for stealing guns submitted to him in the amnesty that followed the Dunblane school massacre.

A police firearms officer's 22-year career was in ruins last night after he was jailed for six months for stealing guns submitted to him in the amnesty that followed the Dunblane school massacre.

Desmond Pearson, 53, had pocketed weapons and sold on collectors' hand guns to a firearms dealer. The weapons were recovered after the shooting in March 1996, in which 17 pupils and a teacher died. Pearson kept 51 weapons in carrier bags on the floor of his office and in a hold-all under his desk, rather than place them in the police station armoury.

Pearson, the firearms licensing officer for the Doncaster area of South Yorkshire, was convicted of stealing a Stevens pistol and a 1902 .22 Belgian revolver submitted by an antiques dealer. He sold them for £100 as part of a consignment of three guns, and did not return the money to their owner. Another gun owner asked Pearson to take his .22 Hammerli target pistol worth £400 and to melt it down, because he was so appalled by the Dunblane killings.

Instead, Pearson handed it to a newly licensed pistol shooter, and lied to cover his tracks during a police investigation.

Sentencing Pearson at Sheffield Crown Court, Judge Robert Moore said: "There was both a danger and a gross breach of trust. The pistol was a dangerous firearm which could have got into criminal hands. A police officer has to be seen to be acting honestly and lawfully, otherwise confidence in the police ... is undermined."

Pearson, of Rossington, near Doncaster, was convicted in June on three counts of theft, two of possessing firearms without authority and one of furnishing false information - all charges he denied. He was acquitted of six charges of pocketing money from gun owners who were renewing their firearms licences.

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