Illegally trading weapons dealer avoids jail

Eric Miller leaves court yesterday. Picture: Lesley Donald
Eric Miller leaves court yesterday. Picture: Lesley Donald
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An 80-year-old antiques dealer has avoided a five-year prison sentence after being found with a banned gun – despite having a previous identical conviction.

Eric Miller walked free from court after pleading guilty to possessing the gun and trading illegally for 50 years.

The 1985 stand-off

The 1985 stand-off

The pensioner was jailed for 34 months in 1985 after a police raid on his shop – Field and Stream in Montrose Terrace, Abbeyhill – led to him firing a shot in an eight-hour stand-off.

Judge Lord Bannatyne condemned the pensioner’s “cavalier attitude” and lack of co-operation during his sentencing at the High Court in Perth.

But the judge made an “exceptional circumstances” exemption to the normal mandatory five-year sentence for possessing a gun because the weapon was more than 100 years old, heavily corroded and the trigger no longer worked.

Miller, of Mauricewood Park, Penicuik, was caught by a council trading standards officer with nine broadswords, a large cleaver, spear, bows and arrows, 111 swords in boxes, knives, pistols and rifles in his shop in May last year. The various “antique” firearms can normally be freely possessed provided they are kept as a “curiosity or an ornament”.

Filed and Stream. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Filed and Stream. Picture: Ian Georgeson

But Miller admitted running a business as a knife dealer without having the required licence and displaying air weapons for sale without being registered as a firearms dealer, as well as possessing the banned pistol.

Lord Bannatyne told the court: “He clearly knew. He just doesn’t seem to co-operate. He doesn’t seem to be interested and doesn’t care.

“I was concerned that he just intends to carry on with his business. He seems to blame the authorities for being overzealous. His attitude is cavalier at best.

“He said he pretty much carried on throughout the period from his last conviction and he has just been lucky that no-one has gone in to check.”

Miller was sentenced to 225 hours of community service and placed under supervision.

He refused to speak at his home following yesterday’s sentencing, but a neighbour revealed that buying and selling antique weapons was an “obsession” that Miller found difficult to abandon.

He said: “It is a lifetime’s obsession or pursuit of some kind. He has found it difficult just to give it up.

“But he is not as active as he used to be, and hopefully this will be the end of it. Retirement would be the answer.”