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Last Updated: Friday, 21 December 2007, 13:14 GMT
Wild West gun buyer avoids jail
Couchman's hobbies included the US Civil War and the wild west
A Wild West fan from Devon escaped being sent to jail for importing firearms after being told by a judge his case was "extraordinary".

Gun-collector Jeremy Couchman faced a minimum five-year sentence after being convicted of possessing a prohibited Smith & Wesson revolver.

The 53-year old bus driver from Torquay was also found guilty of attempting to purchase ammunition.

The judge at Plymouth Crown Court gave Couchman a one-year suspended sentence.

He also ordered him to carry out 100 hours unpaid work in the community.

I nearly went to jail for my hobby
Jeremy Couchman

Judge Ian Leeming QC said it was an "extraordinary" case and it was clear Couchman never intended to use the guns unlawfully so a five-year prison sentence would be "unjust".

Plymouth Crown Court heard he had bought the weapons on a US website and believed them to be antiques and legal.

Judge Leeming said: "It is clear that the offences are serious, but they were committed in circumstances that are unusual in the extreme.

"You had a perfectly legitimate hobby collecting memorabilia and you had a passionate interest that included the collection of guns."

The judge added that Couchman was full of remorse for his actions and had given up his entire collection worth about 12,000.

'Best present'

Couchman, who had pleaded not guilty to all the charges, was also convicted of possessing without authority two copy revolvers and two copy rifles, and possessing a shotgun without a certificate.

He was acquitted of 10 charges of possessing prohibited firearms - seven revolvers, two pistols and a double-barrelled Derringer handgun.

The court heard that Couchman had a passionate interest in the US Civil War and the Wild West.

After the hearing Couchman said the sentence was "the best Christmas present he could have".

"I am so relieved," he said. "I nearly went to jail for my hobby."


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