A FREEMAN of Coventry found guilty of illegally possessing a gun has spoken of the prospect of five years in prison.
Jonathan Farmer was convicted on Friday at Cambridge Crown Court after a two-day trial.
The 57-year-old former TA officer had been arrested in January after police were tipped off about the Second World War Walther PPK pistol he kept at his home in Wisbech in Norfolk where he moved to from his home city several years ago.
Speaking to The Observer Mr Farmer, who has a master degree in military history, insisted he believed the gun had been deactivated when he was given it by a former army officer and city councillor over 25 years ago.
He admitted to feeling unlucky after his conviction after claiming he considered it to be an antique, making it exempt from tough gun laws introduced since the Dunblane school massacre in 1996.
“Every now and then life throws up things that are not too good and this is one of them, but I haven’t really given much thought to being in prison.” he told us.
“It’s not a nice thought I suppose, but there are worse things in life. I drove past a hospice the other day and thought to myself I would not swap places with anyone in there.
“Legislation has tightened since Dunblane and now sets out a minimum of five years for this offence for owning something that is not an antique. I believed it was, but the jury came to a different conclusion and I have to accept that.”
Semi retired engineer Mr Farmer was born in Coventry and went to Whoberley Hall and King Henry VIII schools. He studied at Coventry Technical College, and more recently part time at university in the city and in Birmingham.
In the 1980s he made several failed attempts to get elected to the city council before his political career took off after moving to Wisbech where he served twice as mayor and is currently on Fenland District Council.
He faces being barred from public office for five years if sentenced to more than three months in prison which is likely.
He also lists himself as a member of Old Coventrians Rugby Club, Coventry Conservative, Old Coventrians Association, Coventry and District Co-Operative Society and is a Freeman in his home city and in London. He served for 34 years in the TA, originally joining the city’s Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, and is currently an army cadet officer.
Mr Farmer had argued during his trial the gun, used by the Germans during the Battle of Monte Cassino, was an antique despite him keeping it hidden away. He said it was in a very poor condition when it was given to him and he had simply oiled it over the years and when it was seized by police was in what he described as ‘pristine nick’. The jury was told it could have been used to fire live ammunition.
“I thought it was deactivated; it wasn’t, it’s as simple as that.” he added.
“With hindsight I probably should have handed it in, but even so there has been a case when a man found a gun in a bag in his back garden and was arrested and given a criminal conviction for simply handing it in.
“I was very proud of the gun, but I doubt I’ll see it again.”
He will be sentenced on August 29.