An Irish businessman is facing five years in prison after being convicted of having a “10,000-volt” stun gun disguised as a torch, found among an arsenal of weaponry inside his “fortified” mansion home.
Thomas Kavanagh, 51, had already admitted an alternative offence of having the stun gun, but denied it was deliberately designed to have the appearance of a flashlight.
Kavanagh, who is from Dublin but has lived in the UK for 15 years, told officers the stun gun had been brought by one of his sons during a school trip and that he had later confiscated it.
He was convicted by a majority verdict on Thursday by a jury at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court following a three-day trial.
There was no reaction from Kavanagh, who was sat in the court dock flanked by a security officer, or family members who were sat nearby in the public gallery.
Kavanagh, described in court as a prestige car dealer, had been arrested at the international arrivals hall at Birmingham Airport after getting off a plane following a family holiday to Mexico.
He was detained by National Crime Agency (NCA) officers, backed by colleagues from An Garda Siochana – Ireland’s National Police and Security Service – investigating the supply of drugs and firearms.
The stun gun was then found during a search of his £770,000 home in Tamworth, Staffordshire, on January 12, on a shelf above some kitchen wall units.
Two other similar black stun guns were also discovered in a teenager’s bedroom.
A previous court hearing earlier this year was told that the gated mansion in Sutton Road, Mile Oak, which had a £130,000 Audi R8 Spyder parked on the driveway, was so well fortified it took officers longer than usual to force entry.
Following a legal ruling before trial, jurors were not given details about Kavanagh’s home which had “reinforced bulletproof glass” and was, according to Judge Paul Glenn, an “apparently well-fortified address”.
Inside, officers found what Kavanagh’s own defence barrister described as “an array of weapons”, albeit legally held.
The arsenal included “machetes and shillelaghs” which were “scattered about” and “at various vantage points”, according to the Recorder of Stoke-on-Trent, who ruled out the evidence going before the jury because it would be “highly prejudicial” to Kavanagh’s case.
These types of weapons are extremely dangerous and can cause serious injury or death. This is why they are prohibited in the UKNCA
It was during the 13-hour search, officers also discovered the working pink-coloured stun gun, with “Police” written in capital letters on its side, and which prosecutors said had the appearance of a “Maglite-type” torch.
Opening the case on Tuesday, prosecuting barrister Simon Davis told jurors that Kavanagh had already accepted “simple possession” of the banned weapon.
But he added that the defendant denied a further offence of having a disguised stun gun and that it would be for jurors to decide whether they considered it to be deliberately made to look like a torch.
Mr Davis said: “We say it is a stun gun, disguised as a torch – it had the appearance of a torch.”
The lawyer told jurors that in interview, father-of-six Kavanagh had told officers he had taken the stun gun “off one of the kids when they were messing about with it, and had thrown it on top of kitchen units”.
Kavanagh told officers that another family member had brought the stun gun back to the house after buying it while holidaying in “China, Spain or France”.
He said the two other similar and functioning items, recovered from what was described in court by his barrister Alistair Webster QC as a “teenager’s” bedroom, had also been bought in the same way.
When the pink stun gun was sent off for analysis, a scientist concluded its high-voltage discharge was “in the region of 10,000 volts”.
Kavanagh, who declined to give any evidence in his defence, will be sentenced on September 2 and was given bail to attend the next hearing.
After conviction, Mr Davis told the court Kavanagh had a “lengthy criminal record” in the UK and Ireland for offences including possession of a firearm, making threats to kill, assault, and breach of the peace, and fraud.
Peter Bellis, NCA lead investigator, said: “These types of weapons are extremely dangerous and can cause serious injury or death. This is why they are prohibited in the UK.
“Our wider investigation into money laundering, drugs and firearms supply continues.”