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Monday, 9 September, 2002, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Judge calls for airgun law reform
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew died from a single wound to the head
A judge who sentenced a 15-year-old boy to two years in a young offenders institution for shooting a friend dead with an airgun has called on the government to make an urgent change in the law.

Daryl John Allison was 13 when horseplay with an air rifle ended in tragedy as he shot 14-year-old Matthew Sheffield in the head.

Matthew died on 30 April 2001, the day after the shooting, when his parents agreed to have his life-support machine turned off.

On Monday, Judge Peter Fox QC called on the government to address legislation governing the ownership and use of air weapons.


Such guns should be licensed and kept under lock and key

Judge Peter Fox QC

The parents of the dead boy, Mark and Wendy Sheffield, from Eaglescliffe, in Stockton-on-Tees, backed the call for tighter laws.

Judge Fox said: "Such legislation is urgently needed.

"For Matthew not to have died in vain it would be appropriate, and not at all difficult, for that to be passed in the next session of Parliament."

"Such guns should be licensed and kept under lock and key."

Mr Sheffield, 42, called for a national campaign to put pressure on the government.

He said: "It is a tragedy that Matthew died and it is a tragedy that somebody has had to be sent away but the problem came about because children got their hands on a gun."

Target shooting

During the four-day trial, a jury at Newcastle Crown Court heard how Allison, and his older brother Trevor, got their hands on their father's airgun after a search in the attic at their home on Croft Road, Eaglescliffe, on April 29 2001.

Matthew, and friends Simon Howard and Harry Keane, went round to the house and joined in playing with the gun.

Matthew had his cap snatched from his head and it was hung up in the garden as a target.

One shot was fired at the cap, missing it, before Matthew went down the garden path to retrieve it.

As he returned, Allison shot him - the pellet penetrating his skull just above the eyes.

'No remorse'

A jury of seven women and five men were out for four hours deliberating before deciding, by a majority verdict of 11-1, that Allison was guilty of manslaughter.

Allison pleaded not guilty from the outset and an earlier jury at Teesside Crown Court failed to reach a verdict and a retrial was ordered.

Mr and Mrs Sheffield wrote a letter to the court calling for their son's killer to be locked up because they believed he showed little remorse for Matthew's death.

Judge Fox, sentencing Allison to two years' detention, said: "In my judgment you intended to do more than frighten him, you intended to hurt with the pellet which you blatantly discharged at Matthew."


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See also:

23 Aug 02 | England
20 Aug 02 | England
10 Jul 02 | UK
08 Jul 02 | England
02 Jul 02 | England
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