Gambling addict jailed over guns and drugs

A GAMBLING addict who admitted having a stash of deadly weapons to protect him from loansharks has been jailed for two years.

Former greyhound trainer Graham Calvert lost hundreds-of-thousands of pounds on bets and tried, but failed, to sue bookmakers William Hill to get his money back.

The 29-year-old claimed the bookies were negligent in continuing to take bets from him, despite him excluding himself from their shops.

But the once-successful businessman, who made his fortune as one of the UK's most successful greyhound trainers, lost his case when the judge at the High Court found he would have lost the money elsewhere anyway.

He is currently appealing the decision.

At Newcastle Crown Court last month Calvert admitted possession of a prohibited handgun, possession of a shotgun without a certificate, carrying a knife and possession of 28g cocaine with intent to supply.

The charges result from a raid at his home at Sedgeletch Farm in Houghton-le-Spring.

His barrister Christopher Knox said Calvert had the weapons to protect him from creditors who he had borrowed money off and gambled away, and who would use "unorthodox" methods to get their cash back.

Mr Knox said debt collectors were responsible for attacks on Calvert's property, and once even broke Calvert's arm.

Mr Knox told the court: "There are records of a number of attacks on the premises where he was living, where his mother lived, where his sister and her partner lived with a small child, and there was every reason to fear, on his part, those attacks would continue."

The court heard the handgun was an antique revolver for which bullets are no longer manufactured and are now impossible to get hold of.

Mr Knox said Calvert's problems started when he gambled away his savings on bets such as a 250,000 on golf's Ryder Cup, which he lost.

He then borrowed "huge sums" of money from friends of his father but continued to gamble until he found himself "hopelessly addicted" with mounting creditors.

It was then he decided to ban himself from William Hill, who continued to take bets from him.

Mr Knox said: "He had fallen into an extremely damaging grip of gambling addiction which is ultimately the cause of him finding himself here in this sorry situation."

Judge Esmond Faulks said there were exceptional circumstances in the case which allowed him to draw back from imposing the mandatory minimum five-year sentence for possessing the prohibited weapon.

The judge said he accepted the revolver was over 100 years old, and could have been legal if kept as an ornament.

Judge Faulks told him: "I accept you had, prior to obtaining that gun, not just been threatened by people to whom you owed money but been physically attacked and injured by them.

"You acquired the gun with the intention of deterring further attacks.

"Nevertheless it was Parliament's intention judges should pass deterrent sentences in prohibited firearm cases.

"Therefore, despite those matters referred to and your previous good character, plus the time you have already served in custody, a prison sentence is still inevitable."

The court heard how the cocaine stash found at the farm was worth up to 1,100, but could have been cut and sold for double that amount on the streets.

Judge Faulks sentenced Calvert to a total of two years behind bars.