Man who bought gun and searched Dunblane massacre online jailed

James Maxwell has been jailed for five years (PA)
James Maxwell has been jailed for five years (PA) James Maxwell has been jailed for five years (PA)

A man who bought a gun from the US on the dark web and searched the internet for the Dunblane massacre has been jailed for five years.

James Maxwell, 28, from Leven, Fife, also ordered ammunition and searched online for when schools broke up for Christmas 2022.

He appeared by video link from HMP Perth for sentencing at the High Court in Edinburgh on Thursday following an earlier hearing at which he admitted six charges, including being in possession of indecent images of children.

Judge Lord Ericht handed Maxwell a nine-year extended sentence comprising five years in prison and a further four years when he will be monitored after release from jail, telling him: “You are a grave risk to public safety.”

In September, Maxwell pleaded guilty to purchasing and attempting to acquire a prohibited weapon without permission or without holding a firearms certificate between December 1, 2022 and January 11, 2023.

Maxwell also admitted buying and attempting to acquire and possess ammunition, as well as attempting to import the firearm from the US and bullets without lawful authority.

He pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography between April 22, 2022 and January 11, 2023 as well as possessing extreme images involving animals.

During sentencing, judge Lord Ericht told Maxwell: “You did a search for when the schools broke up for Christmas 2022.

“You also searched the Dunblane school massacre and primary schools in Glasgow.”

Lord Ericht told the court the ammunition Maxwell had ordered would cause “greater injury” than standard use ammunition and it had not been lawfully acquired in the UK.

He added: “You purchased them on the dark web, you bought them from the USA and you paid for them with crypto currency.”

The court heard the firearms were intercepted before they arrived at Maxwell’s address and he was subsequently arrested.

Lord Ericht added: “One hundred rounds of that kind of ammunition used would have been unimaginable.

“You are a grave risk to public safety.”

Concluding, Lord Ericht said: “I commend both the USA law officers and Police Scotland for their actions in ensuring the gun and ammunition were not received by you.”

Maxwell will also be placed on the sex offenders register for a period of seven years.

His lawyer, Jonathan Crowe, told the court in mitigation that Maxwell had a “troubled upbringing” and left secondary school aged 13 following the death of his father by suicide.

He subsequently failed to return to any kind of education or employment, and Mr Crowe told the court Maxwell never received any support to do so.

Mr Crowe said: “He spent time in his room playing games and watching DVDs and his life has followed the same pattern ever since.”

A psychiatric assessment found Maxwell described himself as “suicidal for many years”, Mr Crowe said.

It also said he had no contact with the outside world and Maxwell “lived online for many years”.

As a result, the psychiatric report said, Maxwell developed “Americanised” values, common among those who spend time online, particularly around guns, which made his behaviour seem “odd” when compared to the norms of British society.

Mr Crowe told the court Maxwell was simply unaware of the severity of what he had done or that gun ownership in the UK was unusual or unlawful.

He added: “Locking Mr Maxwell in a prison cell is going to do little for him given the circumstances,” and called for leniency in sentencing him.