Police have admitted making an error after mistakenly handing back firearms to a man they had charged for illegally possessing them.
Officers seized three weapons and a stash of drugs after swooping on the home of John Charlton, known as Chucky.
He was charged with three counts of possessing firearms without a certificate and bailed.
However, Charlton, from Amble, couldn’t believe what happened next. When he went to Wallsend police station to collect his belongings, he was handed back the guns that had been seized from him.
“I think it is disgraceful by police,” said the 33-year-old, who collects military memorabilia. “I’m no angel, but it could have been a lot worse if someone else had got them.”
Charlton said he had gone to the police station to pick up his personal belongings, including his phone, but claimed he was offered the guns back too.
The married father-of-seven took the weapons, but said he disposed of them.
He believes the police made him commit another offence by giving the guns back to him and when he turned up at court it was said that the guns were in the stores, while police said they weren’t.
Charlton says he purchased the air weapons believing they were legal, but the previous owner had increased the power to three times the legal limit, meaning they were illegal.
He pleaded guilty at Newcastle Crown Court to possessing three firearms without a certificate and possessing amphetamine. He was given a 12-month suspended prison sentence.
Charlton said: “I was a bad boy in the past, but I am reformed and I want left alone by the police.
“I want to be the best father and husband possible. I have nothing to hide and I will just be collecting medals and war memorabilia from now on.”
Chief Superintendent Steve Neill acknowledged that the firearms seized from Charlton were returned to him in error.
He added: “We are currently investigating how this occurred and what lessons we can learn from this incident.
“If there are systems and procedures we need to change to ensure this can never happen again, we will do so.”