Man jailed for having a gun - Watford


The search for a better life in the UK ended with the clang of a prison cell door today, Friday, 08 November 2013, when a young Portuguese man was jailed for 27 months.

St Albans Crown Court heard that Pedro Da Costa had arrived in Watford back in 2007 hoping to make a new life for himself and his family. But when he got himself into debt and borrowed £600 from a man he'd never met he then found he was being asked to look after the man's gun. Because of the fears he had for himself and his family, the court heard Da Costa was unable to say no to the man.

Da Costa, described as a hard and reliable worker, who had worked round the clock to try and support his young family, hid the weapon and ammunition for it, in a sock in his bedroom drawer. And that's where it was when police arrived at the front door of his home in Pretoria Road, Watford in November of last year armed with a search warrant.

Today the sorry tale was unfolded at court when 26-year-old Da Costa pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited firearm. He also admitted possessing ammunition without a firearm certificate.

The court was told that following Da Costa's arrest for the offences and the help he had given police, he had feared reprisals from the gun owner. As a result, Da Costa's partner had moved back to Portugal and other members of his family living in the UK had been offered protection from Herts police.

Peter Shaw, prosecuting, said it was on 22 November last year that police armed with a search warrant went to the defendant's home that he shared with his partner, their one-year-old son and his partner's young son by a previous relationship.

Police had gone to the house in search of drugs, but as soon as they entered the house Da Costa told them: "I have a gun upstairs in a bedroom drawer." As a result, officers found the 5 shot rim fire revolver and 8 rounds of 9 mm or .38 live ammunition.

The court heard that, after arriving in the UK, Da Costa had worked hard to support his family, doing labouring jobs, painting and decorating and gardening. He had worked up to fifty hours a week and at first things had gone well. But when his partner had to give up work to care for their baby son, the defendant found that debts were beginning to mount.

The court heard that in August 2012 Da Costa was in a local cafe in Watford used by the Portuguese community when it was suggested by a friend that he speak to a man who might be able to help him clear his debts. As a result, Judge Steven Gullick was told, Da Costa approached the man and ended up borrowing £600 from him to pay his rent. It was, the judge was told "the beginning of the end" for Da Costa and, far from helping him, it led to more serious problems.

Having paid back £200 of the loan, the court was told, Da Costa found the man he'd borrowed the money from to be a threatening individual, who was constantly turning up at his home or phoning him. Things took a sinister turn, the court was told, when the man handed Da Costa a bag containing the gun and asked him to: "keep it safe." As a result, Da Costa felt he couldn't say no, because of the money he still owed and the fact that he feared for his family's safety if he refused.

Da Costa had the gun no more than a month when police called at his home last November.

Judge Gullick was told it had never been Da Costa's intention to do anything with the gun, other that keep it as requested.

Passing sentence Judge Gullick said there were exceptional circumstances, which meant he could give Da Costa a shorter jail term. He jailed him for a total of 27 months

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