Duck shooting explanation was full of holes

A judge’s knowledge of firearms has made a dead duck out of a man’s explanation for having a shotgun and ammunition.

Thirty-eight-year-old Martin Alexander Harris absconded in July rather than face sentencing in the Christchurch District Court on charges of unlawful possession of a shotgun and ammunition.

He was caught again soon after when the police raided a property in Yaldhurst Road at 7.50am on August 2. They found 8.15g of synthetic cannabis, plastic bags, a list of customers, and a set of electronic scales.

Harris’s explanation to the police for having the 12-gauge double-barrelled shotgun and 17 cartridges was that he had bought it for a couple of hundred dollars to do some duck shooting.

Judge Alistair Garland told Harris at his sentencing on all the charges that his explanation was “simply untrue”.

He asked to see the police’s photograph of the shotgun shells and noted that they contained 8.5 “light shot”.

Using a sawn-off shotgun, particularly when using light shot, would make the weapon useless for duck shooting, said the judge.

“Shotguns are sawn off for criminal purposes – to make them easier to conceal,” he told Harris. “It is concerning that you have close associations with the criminal fraternity, especially those involved with drugs.”

The gun had been found broken down, hidden in a baby’s cot with the ammunition. The gun could have been assembled in a matter of seconds, for use for criminal purposes.

Harris faced sentencing for unlawful possession of the shotgun and ammunition, possession of synthetic cannabis for sale, threatening language, theft, failing to come to court twice while on bail, and breach of an intensive supervision sentence. He had pleaded guilty.

Harris had threatened a Work and Income staff member on the phone after finding that his benefit payment was less than he expected.

He admitted theft for ordering pizzas worth $20, and then absconding with the pizzas over the back fence while the driver went to the car to get his eft-pos machine.

Defence counsel Michael Starling said it was accepted that a prison term would be imposed, but urged that Harris be allowed to apply for home detention if a suitable address became available.

Judge Garland said the courts had signalled a hardening attitude towards people who unlawfully had firearms.

He imposed a series of terms totalling 23 months’ jail, with six months of special release conditions to follow. He refused leave to allow an application for home detention.


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