Irish businessman jailed for having 10,000-volt stungun disguised as torch
An Irish businessman has been jailed for three years for having an illegal 10,000-volt stun gun disguised as a torch among an arsenal of weaponry in his "highly fortified" mansion home.
Thomas Kavanagh, originally from Dublin but who has lived in the UK for 15 years, told arresting officers the stun gun had been brought by one of his sons during a school trip to China and that he had later confiscated it.
Jailing the 51-year-old at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court on Monday, Judge Paul Glenn told him: "The law is quite clear - stun guns are prohibited weapons and prohibited weapons are firearms."
However, the judge found there were "exceptional circumstances" to avoid handing Kavanagh the mandatory five-year jail term.
He said Kavanagh had "some good qualities" despite a criminal record of "enormous concern" up until 2001, having since then "made strides" to put his past behind him.
But immediately jailing Kavanagh, he added: "You're not someone with the benefit of a guilty plea or good character."
Judge Glenn also said he took "no account of the unproven or outstanding incidents and any assertions that may have appeared in the press" in connection with Kavanagh.
As details of the arsenal of legally-held weaponry were read out in court, it emerged that Kavanagh was given an Osman warning by police in 2018 - that there was intelligence of a real and immediate risk to his life.
His barrister, Alistair Webster QC, said it was "quite clear" that, following the warning - given without reference to any specific source for the intelligence - Kavanagh "took steps, entirely legally, to secure his house".
Mr Webster earlier told the judge that Kavanagh had left the Republic of Ireland and "rebuilt his life" in the UK "after a relative of his was shot dead at a boxing match by paramilitaries".
Mr Webster added: "It's clear, until he left the Republic of Ireland in 2001, he had a somewhat chequered career in Ireland."
He said Kavanagh was a businessman "running a reasonably successful business buying luxury cars and exporting them principally to the Republic".
However, he added, "that livelihood would be lost" if jailed.
Kavanagh had previously admitted having a stun gun but denied possessing a device specifically designed to have the appearance of a torch.
But he was convicted by a jury after a three-day trial at the court in July.
Sentencing, Judge Glenn said the father-of-six had a "significant criminal history" from 1985 until 2001, including dishonesty, violence, and, in 1990, a firearms offence which led to a seven-year term in an Irish prison.
But he added that there had been a "significant gap" until he was handed a 16-month suspended sentence in 2017 for failing to declare taxable income and supplying fake payslips to secure a mortgage.
Judge Glenn did not trigger the full term of the suspended sentence for the tax and fraud offences, as it had been less than three weeks from expiring at the time Kavanagh committed the stun gun offence.
Instead, he handed Kavanagh two months in jail - to be served concurrently.
Turning to how the stun gun was found, the judge said: "When police attended your home, they found it highly fortified and, having eventually forced entry, officers recovered an arsenal of weapons, including a samurai sword, shillelagh, various knives, nunchucks, machetes, an axe and an extendable baton.
"Of course it is not unlawful to possess those items in the home but they are a cause of concern, notwithstanding the previous issues in early 2018 of an Osman warning.
"In all, three stun guns of similar construction were found, two in your son's room.
"You have been prosecuted in relation to one, which you accepted possession of."
He added: "It is a stun gun, a prohibited weapon - it can be very dangerous in the wrong hands.
"It's capable of emitting a nasty shock but not of a more significant or fatal injury.
"It was disguised and in working order and when tested emitted 10,000 volts."
Married Kavanagh, who declined to give evidence at his own trial and had taken a black holdall to court in anticipation of a jail term, did not react as he was sentenced.
He had been arrested in the international arrivals hall at Birmingham Airport after getting off a plane following a family holiday to Mexico in January.
He was detained by National Crime Agency (NCA) officers, backed by colleagues from An Garda Siochana - Ireland's National Police and Security Service - investigating the supply of drugs and firearms.
The stun gun was then found during a search of his £770,000 home in Tamworth, Staffordshire, on January 12, on a shelf above some kitchen wall units.
The gated mansion in Sutton Road, Mile Oak, which had a £130,000 Audi R8 Spyder parked on the driveway, was so well fortified, including being fitted with "reinforced bulletproof glass", that it took officers longer than usual to force entry.
It was during the 13-hour search that officers also discovered the working pink-coloured stun gun, with "Police" written in capital letters on its side, and which prosecutors said had the appearance of a "Maglite-type" torch.
In interview, Kavanagh told officers he had taken the stun gun "off one of the kids when they were messing about with it, and had thrown it on top of kitchen units".
He said another family member had taken the stun gun back to the house after buying it while on holiday in "China, Spain or France".
NCA lead investigator Peter Bellis said: "These types of weapons are extremely dangerous and can cause serious injury or death. This is why they are prohibited in the UK.
"Our wider investigation into money laundering, drugs and firearms supply continues."