When the police raided a stall selling vicious-looking knives at Wellesbourne Market, they also discovered a box of stun guns that looked like torches under the counter.
Fortunately for stallholder Jatdar Baweja, his plea of not guilty to possessing a disguised weapon was accepted by the prosecution at Warwick Crown Court.
That offence carries a minimum prison sentence of five years – but instead he pleaded guilty to an alternative offence of possessing a prohibited weapon, a box of 12 stun guns.
Baweja (50) a regular Wellesbourne Market trader at the time, of Byron Avenue, Hounslow, Middlesex, was given a six-month jail term suspended for two years and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work.
Prosecutor Graeme Simpson said that Wellesbourne Market operates every weekend at Wellesbourne airfield, and was ‘a very large event,’ with hundreds of vendors.
On July 21 last year the police became aware of a stall selling knives and other weapons, so obtained a warrant to search the stall, which was run by Baweja assisted by his two sons.
From the stall and Baweja’s van they seized more than 100 vicious-looking weapons, including knives, machetes and crossbows, none of which should have been on sale to the public.
And under a table on the stall was a box containing 12 individually-boxed combined stun gun/torch devices which were also seized, and Baweja was arrested.
The devices, which were in full working order, looked like and worked as torches – but had contacts either side of the light which when used delivered powerful electric shocks.
Judge Andrew Lockhart QC observed: “It was decided not to prosecute for having a disguised firearm, which has a statutory minimum term of five years.”
That was confirmed by Mr Simpson, who said that when he was interviewed Baweja said he obtained his stock from a company which imported them from China and Taiwan, and he collected them from premises just off junction one of the M1.
Baweja said he had been trading at Wellesbourne for four or five years, and that he believed the weapons on the stall were legal, although he would not sell any of them to under-18s.
He claimed he had had the stun-guns since 2007 after buying them from another trader for £1 each, but had not been able to sell any because they came with European-style plugs.
But Mr Simpson pointed out that checks revealed that model had not been available that long ago.
Judge Lockhart told Baweja’s barrister Rashad Mohammed: “An aggravating feature is that there are so many. It is not one unit being held as some quasi self-defence, this is distribution, and the danger is that someone else could discharge them.”
And he asked: “What about the knives? This man was choosing to run a knife stall. Do I have any powers in respect of those other items?”
After speaking to Baweja, Mr Mohammed said he was willing to sign a disclaimer in relation to all the items seized by the police – and he did so in court.
The judge commented: “We need these things off the street. One only has to look at the Knife Angel to see these items have no place on our streets.”
Mr Mohammed, who handed in a number of references, said Baweja no longer ran the stall, and now works in a grocery store.
Sentencing Baweja, Judge Lockhart told him: “For 50 years you have managed to live a life without coming into contact with the criminal justice system, but when you do, it’s for a serious matter.
“You were running a stall at Wellesbourne Market, and you had 12 stun guns which you were offering up for sale.
“Others might have bought them. These are dangerous if they had found their way into the community. You say you were not looking to sell them, but they were available for sale.
“When one distributes such items, you have no idea how they are going to be used, or for what purpose.
“In my judgement, this crosses the custody threshold because there were not just one or two items, but a dozen ready for sale. This is serious offending, but because of what I have read about you, I am able to suspend the sentence.”