Two men have been jailed for nearly 30 years for selling illegal and untraceable handguns to the criminal underworld.
Kyle Wood and Greg Akehurst were jailed today for selling copy Browning 1922 pistols – at least one of which was used in two attempted murders.
They appeared at Kingston Crown Court today for sentencing.
Jailed 30 years for selling handguns
Akehurst, 30, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell or supply the pistols and possession of a firearm with intent to cause a person to believe that unlawful violence would be used against them and possession of a loaded firearm and ammunition.
He was jailed for a total of 18 years.
Wood, 29, of Gratwicke Drive in Wick, Littlehampton, pleaded guilty to conspiring to sell or supply firearms on the second day of his trial at Kingston Crown Court last week.
He was jailed for 11 and a half years.
Judge: This case is possibly unique
Judge Susan Tapping, sentencing the pair, said the manufacture of illegal guns from scratch – rather than converting antique weapons – was possibly a unique case.
“These firearms were of significant value to the criminal underworld. Each lacked a unique serial number and any manufacturer’s identification.
“Thus, they were untraceable and so desirable.
“This manufacturing operation was of the gravest possible seriousness. Creating firearms like this had only one objective and that was to be sold to criminal customers who wished to use them with live ammunition.”
Turning to the raid on the factory itself, she said: “When challenged by police, both [Wood and Akehurst] ran in different directions and were chased and arrested.
“This involved considerable courage by the lead chasing officers as each defendant had a firearm.”
Armed officers' raid on illegal gun factory in Hailsham
Wood and Akehurst were arrested along with ‘manufacturer’ Mark Kinman when officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) raided the industrial unit on August 18, last year.
Prosecutor Matthew Farmer said at the trial: “They discovered the existence of a factory that was manufacturing self-loading pistols which were to be sold or transferred into the hands of the criminal underworld.
“An unknown number had already made their way into the hands of criminals and they were seized by police in and around London along with ammunition.”
Guns being manufactured on an 'industrial scale'
According to the prosecution, the guns were being copied from a Browning 1922 self-loading pistol, which was being used as a template.
Mark Kinman – who died before he could face trial – pleaded guilty last year to manufacturing the pistols.
Prosecutor Matthew Farmer described the operation as 'industrial scale' manufacturing.
Parts for up to a further 121 guns were found at the factory.
Both men leave young families as they go into prison
Jay Shah, representing Akehurst, said: “It is impossible to detract away from the seriousness of these offences.
“Mr Akehurst has accepted that he has supplied some firearms to the criminal enterprise.”
He told the court that Akehurst’s ‘downward spiral’ was sparked by his desire to financially support his young family.
“He turned to gambling [and] ran up debts to unscrupulous people and is still receiving threats.”
He argued that while Akehurst was involved in buying in inert ammunition for the factory, it was only through Kinman’s involvement that those rounds were turned into live ammunition.
Andrew Frymann, defending Wood, said: “The defendant accepts through his guilty plea that he was a trusted intermediary in relation to one gun and 24 rounds of ammunition that he knew was to be sold on for use in crime.
“Mr Wood did not know the full or fine detail known to those higher up in the hierarchy of the enterprise.”
He pointed out that Wood is not ‘any sort of career criminal’ and has no convictions for firearms offences.
“The tragedy of Mr Kyle Wood’s terrible decision making in choosing to be involved in this matter is significantly born by his three dependent children.”
Comments from Her Honour Judge Tapping to follow...