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Monday, 25 March, 2002, 15:00 GMT
Garage star jailed for gun crime
So Solid Crew's Ashley Walters
Walters pleaded guilty earlier this month
So Solid Crew member Ashley Walters has been sentenced to 18 months in a young offenders' institution for possessing an illegal gun.

The 19-year-old musician was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court in London, having pleaded guilty earlier this month to having the loaded firearm.

He will serve nine months of the sentence, having already spent nine months in custody.

I am not a gunman or anything

Ashley Walters
Walters' sentence is the latest scandal to hit the garage collective So Solid Crew, which has earned a reputation for notoriety following a string of violent incidents at their concerts.

Walters, who uses the stage name Asher D, was arrested after a traffic warden called police following an argument with the star, in Hanover Square, central London.

It was claimed Walters and his girlfriend were parked next to an "expired meter" when the warden told them to pay or go.

Custodial sentence

An armed response team stopped the popstar's Peugeot car shortly afterwards and the gun was found wrapped in a sock in his girlfriend's handbag.

Walters, from Peckham, south London, pleaded guilty to one count of possessing the prohibited weapon, on 30 July last year.

At the court hearing a further charge of possessing the gun with intent to cause fear of violence was ordered to lie on file.

Groups have in the past built their reputations on particular images but... that is no concern of the courts

Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC
As well as the custodial sentence, Walters must pay 450 towards prosecution costs.

The court heard the loaded firearm, a Brocock, which looks like a Magnum handgun, had been altered from its original airgun specification to fire "potentially lethal" ammunition.

Instead of compressed air, 8mm blank cartridges powered the pellets, although there was no evidence the gun had been fired.

Three months before his arrest, he bought the gun from a man he met in a nightclub for 1,300 in cash, the court was told.

Mother 'horrified'

The singer insisted: "I am not a gunman or anything."

Asked how news of his arrest had affected her, mother Pamela replied: "I was horrified. I find it just so much out of character that he would possess a weapon like that."

The barrister added Walters made it clear he was glad he had been arrested, and that the police now had the weapon.

So Solid Crew
Gigs have been dogged by violence
The trial judge, Geoffrey Rivlin QC, told Walters that despite violence and threats repeatedly suffered from those jealous of his fame, the artist had no "possible justification" for going armed in the way he did.

He said it was clear Walters had not fired the weapon or "had in mind to put it to any particular use".

Taking into account an early guilty plea and many "glowing" testimonials, the judge said he accepted Walters' arrest and court case had had "a salutary effect".

'Greatly relieved'

He added: "Groups have in the past built their reputations on particular images, but unless they commit crime or incite others to commit crime, that is no concern of the courts."

So Solid Crew spokeswoman Nina Santiago said Walters was "greatly relieved" at the outcome.

"Ashley, in particular, is grateful that the judge felt able to distinguish the facts of the case and Ashley's personal circumstances from the adverse publicity that surrounds the So Solid Crew."

Ms Santiago said that Ashley and his family hoped the case would cause young people to look again at the problem of gun crime.

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy
"He [Ashley Walters] claimed he need it after facing threats himself"
See also:

04 Mar 02 | Music
So Solid member pleads guilty
24 Mar 02 | Music
So Solid member faces jail
21 Mar 02 | Music
So Solid dropped from festival
05 Oct 01 | Music
So Solid Crew: Garage stars
05 Dec 01 | Music
No UK tour for So Solid
01 Nov 01 | Music
Two shot at So Solid Crew party
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