A man who threatened a professional drone pilot with a gun over fears he was filming his wife sunbathing in their garden has escaped a prison sentence.
Michael Edwards pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm, namely a Huntington G10 air pistol, at a hearing last month (30 March).
Gloucester Crown Court today (28/04) heard how the 72-year-old of Shepherds Way, Cirencester, rushed out of his home and confronted a man on 22 August last year.
Videographer Daine Gooden, of Swindon, was greeted by the pensioner shouting and swearing at him – whilst armed with a black realistic-looking pistol.
Edwards, who was “flapping” his arms around, told the victim he had taken three shots at his drone as it hovered near his property – claiming it’s illegal to fly there.
Mr Gooden, who was commissioned by an estate agent to take aerial photographs of a neighbouring building, calmly explained why he was flying the drone.
But the defendant refused to accept his explanation, repeatedly telling him not to fly it near his house – stating: “If you do it again, I will fire at it again. I took three shots at it and I missed.”
The victim said “don’t point that gun at me” to which the suspect responded “don’t point a f***ing drone at me.”
@wiltshire999s A man armed with a gun threatened a Swindon drone pilot who was photographing a property for an estate agent – read the court story on wiltshire999s.co.uk. #drone #dronevideo #drones #dronephotography #swindon #swindontown #cotswolds #cotswoldslife #cotswoldsviews #cirencester #photographyisnotacrime #dronelife #gloucestershire ♬ original sound – Wiltshire 999s
Edwards proceeds to hit the drone case with the gun, causing irrepairable damage to the device worth around £1,300.
Chris Smyth, prosecuting, said Mr Gooden’s activity was “perfectly lawful” and confirmed that he was fully registered with the CAA as required.
He said the defendant was “erratic with his arms and the gun”, adding that he was “only a foot away from the victim being aggressive, irate and shouting and swearing about the drone”.
Fearing for his safety and of those around him, Mr Gooden wrestled with the gunman to disarm him and kicked the weapon away. Edwards collected the gun and ran back into his house.
Police were called to the scene and armed officers arrested the defendant.
In custody, he admitted what he had done – but claimed he was concerned the drone pilot was either casing his property or photographing his wife sunbathing.
A neighbour, Katherine Teague, who was present during the incident confirmed in her statement that Mr Gooden had explained his reason for flying the drone – but Edwards continued to state that it was illegal and remained “very angry” about it.
She claimed Edwards called the victim a “pussycat” and repeatedly mocked him as he called 999.
Steve Young, defending, told the court that Edwards “has never been involved in any criminal proceedings” in the past and was of good character.
He said his client bought the air pistol around 20 years ago at a car boot sale and uses it to fire warning shots at foxes when they come into his garden.
Mr Young added that Edwards is “genuinely remorseful and does apologise” for his behaviour, accepting it was “entirely unacceptable”.
“He accepts it would have caused the victim real distress”, he added.
“He’s never been in this situation before, it’s caused a great deal of stress to himself and his family; he has been law-abiding all his life.”
Recorder Richard Mawhinney imposed a 12-month community order with one requirement – for the defendant to complete a four-month curfew between 7pm-7am daily, which will be monitored by a GPS tag.
“The tag will be a reminder to you of what you’ve done, and to anyone else who sees the tag a reminder of what you’ve done”, he said.
He was ordered to pay £3,000 in compensation to Mr Gooden – £2,000 for the damaged drone and loss of earnings and £1,000 for the distress caused.
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