Campaign launched to free 88-year-old Salters Lode man in gun case

Mr Tony Eagle from Downham Market ANL-150308-130428009

Mr Tony Eagle from Downham Market ANL-150308-130428009

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A campaign has been launched in protest at a judge’s decision to jail an 88-year-old man for two years for having a loaded gun in his car.

Roy Delph, of Kemps Close, Salters Lode, near Downham, was sentenced at Norwich Crown Court on Thursday, after pleading guilty to a charge of possessing a loaded firearm in a public place.

Now, his friend, Tony Eagle, is calling on the area’s MP, environment secretary Elizabeth Truss, to intervene.

And he has urged others who are angry at Delph’s treatment to help him fight for his friend’s release.

Mr Eagle said today: “You can’t train a man of 88 by putting him in prison. We’re aiming at the wrong man here.”

Ahead of the sentencing, judge Nicholas Coleman had agreed to reduce Delph’s term for the offence, which normally carries a minimum of five years in prison.

But Mr Eagle, who has known Delph for most of his life, said he had not gone far enough, adding: “I can’t see what we achieve by locking him up. A suspended sentence would be ideal.”

Mr Eagle said he understood the weapon, which Delph had owned for 50 years, was discovered when he approached a police officer to discuss the problems he had been facing.

And he maintained the gun would not have been so clearly visible if Delph had intended to harm anyone else with it.

He said of the decision to carry it: “It’s a habit from old times.”

During the hearing, Caroline Allison, on Delph’s behalf, said he had been “tormented” by youths in the area who allegedly damaged his property and killed his kitten.

She insisted that he posed no threat to the public and the weapon that was found in his car on the A1122 at Downham last year was only used to shoot vermin on his land.

Delph has also been supported by farmer Tony Martin, who was jailed for killing a burglar on his land near Emneth in 1999.

He claimed that Delph had been “treated badly and let down badly.”

But Robin Pegg, chairman of the Downham West parish council, which covers Salters Lode, said he did not recognise the issues that were raised in the case and maintained that no residents had raised concerns about anti-social behaviour with him.

He said he was shocked to hear about the case, adding: “I’ve been here 13 years and I’ve never heard of the man.”

He added: “It’s pretty quiet here in general.

“The main thing people complain about is traffic on the main road and people speeding.”