Blind man's DNA found on stolen army sniper rifle

The Merseyside man was blinded by a firework.
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A man blinded by a firework, whose DNA was found on a stolen army sniper rifle, has walked free from court.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that Andrew Dobbie lives an isolated life in his Merseyside flat and a judge told him on Wednesday (February 21) that if he jailed him, “I would be swapping your confinement in your flat to a cell in HMP Liverpool.”

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53-year-old Dobbie, who appeared in the dock wearing dark glasses and using a white stick, had denied possessing the weapon without a certificate but was convicted after a trial.

Judge David Potter told him that only a custodial sentence was appropriate but in his particular circumstances he would suspend a 12 month jail sentence for 18 months. He also ordered him to carry out 15 days of rehabilitation activities.

Graham Pickavance, prosecuting, had told Liverpool Crown Court that the firearm was found in a bag when police searched stables in Perimeter Road, Kirkby on April 28, 2020. It was an English-made RPA Quadlite bolt action rifle coated in camouflage paint and with a telescopic sight.

Andrew Dobbie leaving court. Image: Lynda RoughleyAndrew Dobbie leaving court. Image: Lynda Roughley
Andrew Dobbie leaving court. Image: Lynda Roughley

Enquiries revealed that it had been stolen from Tactical Coatings UK, who had been applying the paint to the weapon on behalf of the army at premises in Herefordshire at the time of the theft earlier that month. When forensically examined, Dobbie’s DNA was found on trigger, said Mr Pickavance. It had been "specially designed to kill" and the “only purpose of holding such a weapon would be criminal,” he added.

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The defendant, of Tallarn Road, Westvale, Kirkby, who was said to have been minding the weapon for others, has previous convictions. Judge Potter said that his background of being in the army might explain why he had it but it was more likely to be that his heroin habit had brought him into contact with drug dealers. He said it would have been available to organised criminal and serious alarm or distress would have been caused.

Judge Potter said that Dobbie was blind in one eye and only has five percent vision in the other after a firework was thrown at him and exploded in his face. “It is clear your sight loss has had a profound effect on your ability to socialise with others," he noted.

Sarah Griffin, defending, told the court, ”He has remained out of trouble since the commission of this offence, which has been a period of years.

"There is no suggestion that this defendant ever intended to use the weapon,” she said. He is a granddad who had been “suffering particular difficulty with his post traumatic stress disorder and he was smoking heroin daily. He is now completely clean. Effectively, he has been able to turn around his life completely.”

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