South Shields gunman fired at police and public during five-hour clifftop stand-off
A gunman who fired indiscriminately at police and members of the public during a five-hour clifftop stand-off has been put behind bars.
Barry Milton shot an air pistol, which was a prohibited weapon, at people while standing on the wrong side of the barriers at Frenchman's Bay in South Shields.
The 34-year-old had started throwing rocks at the volunteer life brigade before he produced the weapon and discharged it.
Trained police negotiators were called to the scene but it was another five hours before he would surrender.
Milton, of Osbourne Avenue, South Shields, pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
At Newcastle Crown Court today he has been jailed for three years and nine months.
Mr Recorder Simon Goldberg told him: "This was a prolonged incident, there was a firearm discharged and it seems to me, by firing indiscriminately intomembers of the public who were watching, it must have been conduct intended to maximise fear."
The judge said the risk of harm that day was "significant" and Milton, who has mental health disorders, has been assessed as posing a "high risk to the general public and emergency services".
The court heard it was on October 1 last year that police were called to the scene after reports of a man on the wrong side of the cliff barriers.
Stuart Graham, prosecuting, said volunteer life brigade members arrived but retreated behind their car due to Milton's behaviour towards them.
Mr Graham said: "The volunteer life brigade member could see the defendant now had a firearm and saw him pointing it towards a footpath and heard the firearm making a popping noise. It was an air weapon being discharged.
"A police officer tried to engage with the defendant and he responded by shouting abuse and throwing rocks towards him and his colleague.
"The PC then saw the defendant bend down and pick up what transpired to be an air rifle and he aimed it in the direction of the PC, causing him and the otherofficer to take cover behind the search and rescue vehicle.
"He then aimed the firearm and fired it towards them.
"The police heard a hissing noise and noticed the defendant aimed the firearm at members of the public and shooting towards them."
Specialist negotiators were called to the scene and after five hours, he finally came down and police seized a loaded air weapon.
Referring to victim impact statements, Mr Graham said: "The life brigade volunteer said as a helper he would not expect someone to pull a gun on him.
"The officers express great concern about what would happen if they were hit in the eye.
"The negotiators said it was incredibly stressful for everyone there and resource intensive."
When he was interviewed by police, he complained that he couldn't concentrate due to tight clothing and mental health issues and said it was" just a pellet gun".
He added that he had been on three types of medication for anxiety, depression and another issue but had not taken them for 12 months.
Jamie Adams, defending, said there was a difference between a "professional criminal with a gun that needs to be kept out of harms way" and Milton, who was "a very sick man, with his two dogs, standing on a cliff on the other side of the safety barrier".
Detective Constable Chris Sengelow, of Northumbria Police, said: “Barry Milton’s actions that day were erratic and wholly irresponsible.
“He left members of the public terrified as he discharged an air weapon towards them and officers, as well as throwing rocks at a PC who was trying to help him.
“His appalling behaviour and the subsequent stand-off with our officers, which lasted five hours, also diverted significant resources away from genuineemergencies and other incidents.