Harrogate businessman receives suspended sentence for pointing air gun at hotelier
A hotelier had an imitation air gun pointed at him by a Harrogate businessman after complaining about his barking dogs.
Mark Addison, owner of The Grafton, a boutique B&B in Franklin Mount, went to Austin Wildmore’s home on Franklin Road to complain about the noise his dogs were making, York Crown Court heard.
Wildmore, 53, the director of an international pet-transport company, answered the door and pointed a Steyr M9-A1 BB gun at the startled hotelier.
Mr Addison feared it was a revolver, said prosecutor Rob Galley.
The businessman then appeared to gather his senses and went back inside, where he put the imitation firearm in a kitchen drawer.
Mr Addison called police who arrived at the scene about two hours later.
Wildmore came clean straight away and admitted possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear to Mr Addison.
The bizarre incident occurred just before midnight on June 9 last year when Mr Addison, who was inside the hotel, heard loud barking coming from Wildmore’s address.
He went round to his home nearby and rang the doorbell but initially there was no answer.
“Mr Addison continued to ring the doorbell,” said Mr Galley.
“(Mr Wildmore) opened the door very quickly.
"He appeared very angry.
"Mr Addison noticed a gun – a handgun.
“He said the defendant only had the gun held out very briefly (then) he lowered it again.
"(Mr Addison) said ‘I hope that’s not a real gun’ and pointed out (that) the dogs had been barking.
“The defendant immediately went back (inside) and placed (the gun) in the kitchen drawer, and one of the dogs that had been in the garden came back into the house.”
Mr Addison said he was “stunned” by the incident and that it “didn’t really register”.
Police seized the air gun and examination of the imitation weapon showed that it contained softer, plastic ball bearings.
Wildmore told police he was concerned when he heard the doorbell ringing repeatedly because there had been previous “incidents” in the area including a murder and a shooting.
“He said he was worried about ‘druggies’ in the area,” added Mr Galley.
He said he saw a man at the door looking “agitated”, so he “answered the door with the BB gun in his hand”.
He said he ordinarily used the gun for target practice with his son.
Mr Galley said it was a “heat-of-the-moment” incident and that Wildmore had led a hitherto blameless life.
Wildmore’s barrister Susannah Proctor was spared the need for any mitigation after deputy circuit judge Timothy Clayson said her client would not be going to prison as he had acted “utterly out of character”, adding: “There is nothing here to suggest the defendant would behave in any way like this again.”
Mr Clayson said Wildmore was a hard-working man and devoted father who had put the gun away quickly after the incident and been up front with police.
He told Wildmore: “You contribute to society ordinarily and you are a family man. I’m sure this is the last any court will see of you.”
However, Mr Clayson said the offence was so serious as to merit a custodial sentence, albeit suspended, because the victim would have had no idea, in the dark of night, whether the weapon being pointed at him was real or not.
“This is never the way to deal with anything,” he added.
Wildmore’s eight-month jail sentence was suspended for 18 months and he was ordered to carry out 100 hours’ unpaid work and pay £220 prosecution costs.