Dad paid off drug debt by hiding gun in car

A Blackley father-of-two hid a handgun in a stolen car to help pay an outstanding drug debt. James George Henry Boland, 31, has three previous convictions to his name — two of which relate to drug offences. After being indebted to a drug dealer, he minded the revolver in the car parked opposite his Charnwood Road home, along with rounds of ammunition modified to fit the weapon.

But Minshull Street Crown Court heard that on July 14 last year, police arranged for a recovery truck to collect a stolen vehicle, which had been given false number plates, from Charnwood Road — which had been taken by robbers in Sale on December 29, 2019. When Boland realised that the car — and its contents — were being seized, he chased after the recovery driver on foot.

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Then, he and an associate took to a black Mini Cooper and followed the car, weaving in and out of traffic as they did so. Once the recovery vehicle arrived at its depot, the driver became suspicious of the two men when they said they had just bought the car on Gumtree — but could not remember its registration number. Police searches of the stolen motor then uncovered a .322 revolver under the driver’s footwell, as well as ammunition and spent cartridges.

Now, Boland has been jailed for five years. Mr Gaskell, defending, said that Boland’s drug use was triggered by the loss of a child in 2009, and had a stable family life. “He is not a young man but he is relatively inexperienced with criminal activity”, the barrister said. “He has very few convictions and this is his first experience in custody.

“He has found the last few weeks difficult.

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“He has a partner of 12 years with two children, but they lost one in 2009 and the defendant has identified a lot of his misuse of drugs and mental health difficulties to that. “He has been, on two separate occasions, admitted to mental health units.” Judge Recorder Anthony O’Donohue told Boland: “I take into account that you have suffered terrible bereavement — but that is… no excuse for what you have done.

“If it is true that you were asked by drug dealers to mind the weapon you only have yourself to blame for getting into the drugs world. “It is clear that you are not work shy and there is a real prospect of employment on your release. The character reference speaks highly of you.

“I have decided to make the sentence as short as possible.” When it was suggested that Boland was facing seven years in prison, members of Boland’s family gasped from the public gallery. However, the defendant smiled and stuck his thumbs to the gallery when it was revealed he would spend a shorter time in jail.

Boland pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a handgun and one count of possession of ammunition.

He was handed a five-year prison sentence for the first offence, and a four-year term for the second, to be served concurrently.