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Man bought gun to take own life, but it was dud, court told

By John Cassidy

Published 19/01/2016

A Co Down man was been handed a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence after police found an antique shotgun and ammunition in his van
A Co Down man was been handed a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence after police found an antique shotgun and ammunition in his van

A Co Down man was been handed a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence after police found an antique shotgun and ammunition in his van.

Christopher John Digney, from Struell Heights in Downpatrick, bought the shotgun for £600 in a bid to take his own life - but the weapon, which could have been up to 200 years old, was in such poor condition that it didn't work, Downpatrick Crown Court heard.

Judge Brian Sherrard told Digney that he was dividing his sentence between 11 months in custody and 25 months on licence.

As Digney had spent 337 days on remand, the 34-year-old walked free from court because of time already served.

Crown prosecutor Laura Ivers said the shotgun was discovered in the back of a van inside a locked attaché case that was searched by police at Digney's then address in Strangford, Co Down, on October 28, 2014 - just two days after he purchased the weapon.

Also recovered from the van were a number of other items including shotgun cartridges, an imitation weapon and a black balaclava.

Self-employed window cleaner Digney was arrested for firearms offences and initially told police he had borrowed the van from a friend.

He also claimed he had no knowledge of the items in the vehicle, but later admitted possessing a gun without a certificate and possessing ammunition in suspicious circumstances.

Ms Ivers said when the 10-bore shotgun was examined, it was found to be in a "poor condition overall" but capable of discharging cartridges.

Downpatrick Crown Court heard Digney's DNA was found to be present on the weapon and the balaclava.

She told the court that the presence of the sawn-off shotgun, which was found alongside ammunition, a balaclava and an imitation firearm, amounted to intent which may be suspicious.

Defence barrister Eugene Grant QC said the incident occurred at a time when Digney was going through difficulties in his personal life, including the demise of a long-term relationship with the mother of his children, which resulted in depression and suicidal thoughts.

The barrister told the court his client's intention of possessing the shotgun was to take his own life.

He purchased the weapon, only to discover that because of its condition he couldn't fire it, meaning he had effectively "bought a dud".

He also revealed that since his arrest Digney had sought treatment for his depression and suicidal tendencies.

Mr Grant told the court there was "no sinister purpose" for the balaclava, as it was part of the protective clothing Digney wore for industrial cleaning work.

Passing sentence, Judge Sherrard said that he accepted that Digney was suffering from a "number of stressors" in his life at the time that the police seized the weapon.

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