Man who fired shotgun in air to warn off pal about to expose him to his wife avoids jail
A scout leader who fired both barrels of a shotgun to prevent his wife being told about an affair with a family friend has received a suspended jail term.
Judge Gemma Loughran told 28-year-old Fermanagh man Neill William Dixon that but for the exceptional circumstances of his case he would have been jailed for a year, instead of the sentence being suspended for three years.
Dungannon Crown Court heard the father-of-one, from Whinnigan Glebe, Lisbellaw, pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence or injury. He fired his legally held shotgun last February to scare a friend he feared was going to tell his wife of the affair.
Judge Loughran said the exceptional circumstances included Dixon's guilty plea, his "deep shame and regret", and the fact that at the time he was "under considerable strain".
His behaviour, she added, was "utterly disgraceful", having acted as he did "out of self-interest".
Judge Loughran said Dixon had intended only "to frighten" his victim, but not "to harm him".
The judge said she would recommend that "never again" would Dixon be allowed a gun licence.
Prosecution lawyer Suzanne Gallagher told the court, Dixon's victim, a family friend, went to his home "with regards to inappropriate text messages which had been exchanged between the defendant and the injured party's wife". He parked at the entrance to their lane after trying to call Dixon.
"He was sat there for a couple of minutes when he noticed the outside light at the defendant's property coming on. He could see two shadows walking past the front of the defendant's home," Ms Gallagher said.
Ms Gallagher said the man turned his jeep round, and seeing both Dixon and his brother in the headlights, he put the vehicle in gear, driving slowly towards them.
"He stated the defendant was walking with both arms down by his side as if he was carrying something behind him. He then saw the defendant's arms come up in the air as high as his stomach," she said.
"It looked like he was aiming something in the air. He couldn't make out what it was, but heard a crack and realised it was the sound of a gun going off," said Ms Gallagher, who added that after driving off at speed "he heard another loud bang".
When later interviewed Dixon initially "indicated that there had been inappropriate text messages between himself and the injured party's wife".
"In later interviews he accepted that there had been an affair between him and the injured party's wife and that eventually he used his firearm to scare him away as he didn't want him going to his house and his own wife finding out all about the affair," said Ms Gallagher.
Defence lawyer Ian Turkington said Dixon, who attended court with his wife and father, "had endeavoured to repair things" between the former friends, so that they could "get on with their lives".
"It looked like he was aiming something in the air. He couldn't make out what it was, but heard a crack and realised it was the sound of a gun going off."
Prosecution lawyer Suzanne Gallagher