Norwich man jailed over illegal weapons airport haul

PUBLISHED: 08:31 01 April 2014 | UPDATED: 08:32 01 April 2014

John Sayer. photo by Adrian Judd

John Sayer. photo by Adrian Judd

Archant Norfolk 2011

A man who was found guilty of possessing a stash of illegal weapons, including four stun guns disguised as mobile phones, has been jailed.

John Sayer, 49, from Canary Scaffolding, on Ace industrial 
estate, Stratton Strawless, near Norwich, was also found with five knuckle-dusters, two extendable batons and another stun gun, when his luggage was searched at Norwich Airport after a trip to Thailand, where his wife is from, on May 21 last year.

Sayer, who had denied possessing the prohibited weapons and claimed it was a “total mistake” they were in his luggage, appeared at Norwich Crown Court yesterday to be sentenced after being found guilty last week following a short trial.

Sentencing Sayer, who was dressed in a grey shirt, to a total of six years in prison, Judge Peter Jacobs said Sayer had acquired the items and placed them in his suitcase.

He said the offences were “serious” and described how the stun guns or “Tasers”, disguised in this case as iPhone 4s, had the ability to “repel” and “completely incapacitate” people.

Judge Jacobs said: “It’s obvious to anyone that these ‘tasers’ are a real concern because they are so difficult to detect.

“The problem with illegal weapons is they get into the wrong hands.

“You can’t control ultimately where these weapons end up, whether they are given to someone for good or bad reasons, whether they are sold or stolen or simply lost.

“There’s a real risk they can end up in the hands of criminals or dangerous people.

“The risk that can’t be stated strongly enough is, what happens if they get into public places, public transport like aeroplanes, trains or buses?”

On Friday the jury of seven women and five men took just two hours and 50 minutes to find Sayer guilty of three offences – possession of a disguised firearm, having an offensive weapon and possession of a prohibited weapon.

John Farmer, in mitigation, yesterday attempted to dissuade Judge Jacobs from imposing anything above the mandatory five-year sentence for offences of this type.

He said Sayer was a “fundamentally decent” person who was supported by a number of people including his ex-wife and current wife.

Mr Farmer said Sayer had built up a decent business with two employees who, as a result of his imprisonment, would very soon be out of work.

He said the sentence would “cut hard and deep” to his family, friends and the families of those who worked for him.

As Sayer was taken down, members of his family stood, signalled to and applauded the defendant with one shouting: “Love you John’.”

During the trial the court heard that Sayer had in 2010 been prosecuted after police discovered prohibited weapons at his home after he brought them back for his wife, although he said he was not then aware they were illegal.

But Sayer, who subsequently had his firearms licence taken away, said the items found last May were not meant to be in his suitcase but were part of “stock” from stalls owned by his wife’s late grandfather which were not meant to be in his luggage.

Speaking after the hearing, Malcolm Pells, from Border Force at Norwich Airport, said: “These items are extremely dangerous, which is why the controls on bringing them into the UK are so strict.

“Travellers should remember that just because you can buy an item while on holiday abroad does not mean you can bring it back to the UK.

“Border Force officers are on constant alert to stop offensive weapons entering the UK. The penalties for those caught in possession of such items are tough and pleading ignorance of the law is simply no defence.”

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Goods which cannot be brought into UK

Banned goods which cannot be brought into this country, regardless of which country you are travelling from, include:

• Controlled drugs such as cocaine, heroin, MDMA (Ecstacy), cannabis, barbiturates, amphetamine and methamphetamine.

• Offensive weapons such as flick and gravity knives, butterfly knives, push daggers, belt-buckle knives, death stars, swordsticks, stealth (non-metallic) knives, knives disguised as everyday objects, knuckledusters, blowpipes, truncheons, self defence sprays and electric shock devices such as stun guns and some martial arts equipment.

Speaking at the time of the weapons seizure in May last year, Malcolm Pells from Border Force at Norwich Airport, said: “Just because you can legally buy an item while on holiday abroad does not mean you can bring it back to the UK.

“Carrying items that are banned or for which a licence or permit is needed is illegal. Officers will seize these items and people caught smuggling them could also face prosecution and imprisonment.

“Border Force is here to ensure these weapons are kept out of the UK as they can serve no purpose other than to harm people. We don’t want them on our streets.”

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