Former Wisbech mayor spared jail

Jonathan Farmer ENGANL00120131103160138
Jonathan Farmer ENGANL00120131103160138

A former Wisbech mayor convicted of possessing a German handgun given to him by a Second World War army veteran has escaped jail.

Jonathan Farmer, 57, of South Brink, Wisbech, who faced up to five years in jail, said his 21-month suspended sentence was a “victory for common sense”.

During his two-day trial at Cambridge Crown Court in July colleagues said he was a “loyal servant to the community” but was convicted unanimously by the jury of the illegal possession of a firearm.

Mr Farmer was given a Walther PPK handgun by a veteran, who had seized the pistol from a German officer at the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944.

The court heard how Mr Farmer kept the gun in a cupboard at his home for 25 years before police seized it in January this year. He believed it had been deactivated.

He was expected to be given a minimum five-year prison term at his sentencing hearing in Cambridge on Friday.

But Judge Gareth Hawkesworth said there were “exceptional circumstances” and instead handed him a 21-month sentence suspended for two years.

He said: “I am obliged in these circumstances to give you the benefit of the doubt.

“In a sense your position within the community means you had to demonstrate exemplary behaviour to all and I find it reprehensible.

“It also seems extraordinary that you hadn’t considered that it might fall into someone’s hands.

“You chose to ignore the risks that were clearly evident in your mind. But it is clear you never used the weapon or acquired it for any criminal purpose and there are exceptional circumstances.

“I accept that you are a fool and at times quite an arrogant man rather than a criminal.”

Speaking outside court Mr Farmer said: “The sentence seems entirely appropriate.

“I was relieved because the alternative was five years in prison. I think it was a victory for common sense. The British judiciary system has many checks and balances and it works.

“We can be brilliant with hindsight and if I had used my common sense I would have got the thing checked out.”

Mr Farmer was Wisbech mayor from 2008 to 2009.

As well as his suspended sentence he was ordered to carry out 250 hours unpaid work in the community and told to pay costs of £2,000 and a victim surcharge of £100.