A Norfolk firearms dealer has been jailed for six years for helping supply ‘gun nut’ James Arnold with some of his massive collection of illegal weapons.
Arnold, who has amassed an ‘extraordinary’ hoard of 463 illegal firearms and explosives at his home in Wyverstone, died of pancreatic cancer before he could face prosecution but gunsmith and firearms dealer Anthony Buckland, 65, of Stoke Holy Cross, who supplied a small number of the weapons, faced a trial late last year.
Buckland was eventually found guilty of 11 counts of selling a prohibited weapon and nine counts of fraud at Norwich Crown Court.
In mitigation, Michael Claire said: “He cannot be responsible for Mr Arnold’s collection and whatever else Mr Arnold had is a matter between him and the police.”
Many of the weapons he supplied to Arnold and other customers had been illegal firearms which he thought he had converted to make legal, he added.
“He stands before Your Honour as an utterly broken man,” Mr Claire added.
“He is broken financially, he has lost his reputation and his lifelong association with firearms is over.
“He will never deal in firearms again, he will never handle firearms again - and he doesn’t want to.”
Jailing him today, Judge Stephen Holt said: “When the police searched Jim Arnold’s home they found a vast collection in a secret room which could only be accessed by crawling through a safe.
“But you are to be sentenced for what the jury convicted you of and not the vast collection of firearms that Mr Arnold had.
“In your profession a great deal of trust had been placed in you and it is quite clear you abused that trust.”
Buckland, who the court heard has serious health problems, shook uncontrollably as sentence was passed.
Following his sentencing, Suffolk police spoke of the potentially devastating consequences had Arnold’s life spiralled out of control or if the haul - enough to arm nine coachloads of terrorists - had fallen into the wrong hands.
Detective Superintendent Steve Mattin said: “Of course the fear was that they could fall into the wrong hands or, given that he had terminal cancer, something might change in his life and he would have access to hundreds of deadly weapons.”
He added: “The scale of what was discovered in Wyverstone was quite extraordinary and ultimately turned out to be th biggest cache of weapons held by an individual ever found in the United Kingdom.
“Although we will never know the full reasons how and why James Arnold built up this huge arsenal of weapons, we were at least able to identify Anthony Buckland as someone dealing in illegal firearms as part of this investigation.
“I am pleased with the sentence handed down to Buckland today, which provides a positive outcome at the conclusion of one of Suffolk Police’s biggest ever operations.
“I hope it also serves as a warning to those involved in the illegal supply of weapons that this is a highly dangerous practice and if caught they face significant prison terms.”