Loaded gun left in unlocked van

A REGISTERED gun owner left a loaded rifle in an unlocked van, a court has heard.

Richard Uffindell (49) left the gun propped against the passenger’s seat of the van, which was parked in a field, as he went to look for game.

A member of the public spotted the £2,500 weapon while walking his dog at New Aberdour’s Sewage Works at 8.20am on January 7.

Worried that the vehicle and weapon may have been stolen, the dog walker sounded the van’s horn. When the driver did not return, he removed the gun and delivered it to a police station.

The gun was found to be loaded but no rounds had been fired and the safety catch was on.

Peterhead Sheriff Court heard that Mr Uffindell, of School Road in Inverallochy, has 25 years experience in handling firearms and owned four “properly licensed” guns which he used frequently for “sport and to control pests” for local farmers.

David Gibb, defending, said that Uffindell had arrived at the farm near New Aberdour at 7am, which he did four or five times per week, and driven down an access track.

He said: “Mr Uffindell observed the land using binoculars. He was looking for deer, rabbits or foxes. He removed the gun from its case and left it in a state of readiness propped against the passenger seat.”

In order to access a second part of the farm, Uffindell left the track and went down to a second field. Mr Gibb said: “He was not away from the van for more than five minutes and never heard the horn.

“The location of the van meant Mr Uffindell did not expect that it was near a public thoroughfare. It seems the member of the public walking his dog had taken his right to roam quite literally. Mr Uffindell has always been fully aware of his responsibilities. He was instantly filled with panic and checked the gun’s case and the grass nearby. In a panic, he drove around New Aberdour hoping he might spy the carrier of the weapon. He contacted the police when he arrived home. He feels very sheepish.”

Sheriff Philip Mann ordered that the custom built rifle be forfeited and fined Uffindell £750.

He said: “This is a serious breach of a firearms certificate. You have got to be very careful when in possession of a firearm and ammunition. You are fortunate that the person who came across the gun was a responsible member of the public and not someone who would cause the public harm.”