Gun and machete sentence imposed on friend of Colin Horner ‘unduly lenient’

Colin Horner
Colin Horner

A friend of loyalist murder victim Colin Horner must serve a five-year prison term for having a gun and a machete, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Senior judges held that a previous decision to defer sentencing on Ian David Price was unduly lenient.

The 33-year-old, with a previous address at Lena Street in Belfast, was ordered to present himself at Maghaberry Jail by 10am on Thursday.

Price was arrested following a drunken gathering at a house in Bangor, Co Down in June 2017.

A month earlier his friend, Mr Horner, had been gunned down at a supermarket car park in the town as part of a suspected loyalist feud.

The 35-year-old murder victim’s partner invited Price to the commemoration at her home in Bangor’s Fort Terrace area as he had missed the funeral due to being in custody.

But amid “chaotic and disorderly” events uniformed police and an armed response unit were called to the address, the court heard.

A two-foot-long machete was recovered from a car linked to Price, while an air pistol was later located during searches at his home.

Children playing in the street near Fort Terrace found a bag containing a blank-firing revolver and ammunition the same day.

Although not classified as lethal, the revolver is a prohibited weapon.

A photo of the gun and bullets was discovered on a phone seized from Price.

He eventually pleaded guilty to possessing the revolver without a firearms certificate, two other firearms charges, possessing a bladed article and three drugs offences.

In November last year, by which stage Price had served seven months in custody on remand, a judge at Dungannon Crown Court deferred sentencing for six months.

An indication was given that if the defendant turned his life around during that period he would not be sent back to jail.

Northern Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the deferral decision on the grounds that it had been unduly lenient.

Backing the DPP’s challenge, the Court of Appeal identified a series of aggravating features, including the revolver being discarded in a residential area and found by a child who then tried to use it.

Lord Justice Stephens stressed that blank firing pistols can be used by criminals to create “real fear and control”.

Price ignored the risk of the gun being found being found by children and the consequential impacts on family life, the judge held.

He said: “The community should be protected from such circumstances. They are corrosive and a menace.”

The involvement of a machete was also described as “abhorrent”.

“Possession of knives can be the hallmark of, or the badge of criminal honour of dangerous thugs seeking to achieve inappropriate and malign authority in the eyes of those in the community with whom they have dealings,” Lord Justice Stephens added.

“The sentences that were imposed were unduly lenient. We quash those sentences.”

Imposing a new five-year term to deal with all the offences, he confirmed that half will be served in custody and half on licence.