A former police community support officer who stored a makeshift explosive device and potentially dangerous chemicals at her home has been jailed for 27 months.
Zoe Watts was dismissed as a staff member at Lincolnshire Police last December, two months after being arrested in a raid which saw bomb disposal officers called to her three-bed semi-detached home.
Police carried out searches at the rubbish-strewn property in St Helen’s Avenue, Lincoln, on October 4, leading to a number of weapons being recovered, including stun guns and an illegally-adapted electric fly-swatter.
The 35-year-old admitted making an improvised explosive device (IED) as her trial was due to start at the city’s crown court in May.
She had previously pleaded guilty to three charges of possession of a prohibited weapon and two counts of inappropriately importing goods, namely butterfly knives, after ordering them from a firm in The Netherlands.
Watts attended Wednesday’s hearing via a video-link to HMP Peterborough and was described in court as a hoarder with an interest in survivalism.
Andy Peet, prosecuting, told the court some of the substances found at Watts’ home were inherently dangerous, but conceded the offences did not have a “sinister background”.
Defence lawyer Nicholas Fooks told Judge John Pini QC, the Recorder of Lincoln: “The reality here is that this defendant is a hoarder and the items found, she said in interview, were used on two occasions.
“One in the woods where there was nobody else present and therefore of no danger to anybody, and the second was when she lit a fuse in the garden.
“On that occasion there was a small bang.
“She may unwittingly be guilty of what I would describe as a slight lack of realism.”
After Mr Fooks said Watts was not a political activist “either on the right or on the left,” Judge Pini said he accepted, as did the Crown, that the defendant had no malicious intent to cause harm.
Sentencing Watts, the judge said: “The clear purpose of the Explosive Substances Act 1883 is to protect the public and property from harm by explosions as possessing explosives is inherently dangerous.
“You were not trained or approved to have these substances.
“Your interest, as you made very clear in your interviews, is that you have a YouTube channel concerning survivalist issues.
“To you this may all be harmless fun but we are in fact dealing with highly dangerous and volatile substances which can cause significant injury.”
Lincolnshire’s Assistant Chief Constable Kerrin Wilson said: “This has been a difficult case involving a staff member at Lincolnshire Police, who has now been held accountable for her actions.
“We expect our officers and staff to uphold the law and always maintain high standards.
“Clearly in this case that has not happened, and I’d like to reassure members of the public that we have engaged in a robust process to investigate these crimes.
“While these incidents are very rare, it is absolutely right that we prosecute where appropriate and I’d like to pay tribute to those who carried out a thorough investigation which has resulted in today’s sentencing.
“Although there was no evidence to suggest that Zoe Watts planned to use any of the weapons that she had bought, it’s entirely understandable that our communities would have been concerned by this. I thank them again for their patience and understanding while we carried out our investigation.
“Today’s sentencing sends out a clear message that we will take action against those who commit such serious weapons offences.”