Family Jailed For Firearms Offences

23rd March 2018

A haul of guns and ammunition, including bullets linked to the murder of a father, has been taken off the streets of the West Midlands as a family involved in illegal arms trading began lengthy prison sentences today (23 March).

Wild West enthusiast Kevin Bates and son Connor were arrested after their Birmingham home in North Roundhay, Kitts Green was raided and five illegal firearms as well as ammunition was recovered.

Analysis of these items by the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) revealed a scientific link to 24 incidents across the West Midlands, including the murder of Carl Campbell on West Bromwich High Street in December 2016.

Makeshift workshops were discovered in the garage and utility room that were being used to shorten shotgun barrels and modify ammunition. Numerous cut barrels were also found, leading investigators from the Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) to believe it was an on-going criminal enterprise.

A safe containing two revolvers and a single shot pistol, and a modified Olympic .38 double action revolver, were also found in the garage. Equipment for making a rifle round that could fit an AK47 machine gun, as well as 49 live rounds of ammunition, were seized.

Father of five Kevin Bates had a leather notebook with instructions on how to make bullets for the illegal guns, along with measurements for ammunition for other illegal weapons. His son Connor was described in court as his "right hand man" and his "sales manager".

A search of Connor's Vauxhall car found 9mm bulleted cartridges in sandwich bags along with a SIM card. Connor was suspected of preparing them for supply before his arrest. Connor was linked to an address in Bushbury Road, Kitts Green, where a price list for various modified ammunition was recovered.

Firearms, ammunition and equipment were examined by experts at the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS). NABIS were instrumental in identifying the trend seen in this case and working closely with police to link crime scenes and bring offenders to justice.

This is another example of homemade ammunition being produced for obsolete calibre (known as antique) firearms and ending up with organised crime groups. Criminals are exploiting the law and we continue to see ammunition of this type turning up at crime scenes across the West Midlands region and other areas.

Detective Chief Superintendent Jo Chilton, Head of NABIS, said: "NABIS, and in particular ballistics expert Gregg Taylor, played an integral part in this important investigation and we are satisfied with the lengthy prison sentences handed down.

"We recognise that most firearms certificate holders are law abiding citizens; however there is an alarming minority who cross the line and pay the price for that. NABIS are committed to working in partnership with police and other law enforcement agencies, as well as law abiding gun owners, to tackle gun crime and keep communities safe."

Gun crime is a priority for West Midlands Police, with more than 140 illegal weapons taken off the streets last year. Dedicated patrols in areas affected by gun crime are also carried out on a regular basis.

Between December 2014 and July 2016 a large amount of purchases were made by Kevin's daughter, Trudy Bates, as well as Connor. It was believed that the purchases were for equipment to make ammunition for obsolete calibre firearms which would then be supplied to criminal networks.

Two other men have also convicted for their role in the enterprise - Imran Khan, described in court as a "highly trusted friend" of Connor, and Nathan Bates, Kevin's nephew, were also arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to supply ammunition after phone records linked them to the on-going sale of ammunition.

Kevin Bates held a firearms certificate that allowed him to have a number of rifles and revolvers in a locked cabinet under the stairs. However, he took advantage of this position of trust by modifying and supplying ammunition to be used for crime.

Kevin, aged 56, of North Roundhay, Kitts Green, pleaded guilty to three counts of possessing a prohibited firearm. He pleaded not guilty to two counts of possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of a prohibited weapon for sale or transfer, conspiracy to sell or transfer prohibited weapons and ammunition, but a jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to a total of 23 years imprisonment.

Connor Bates, 23, also of North Roundhay, Kitts Green, admitted to conspiring to supply ammunition. He pleaded not guilty to five counts of possessing a prohibited firearm, possessing a prohibited firearm for sale or transfer and conspiracy to sell or transfer prohibited weapons but was found guilty and has now been jailed for a total of 20 years imprisonment. Connor was also found guilty of producing cannabis after plants were found at his house.

Detective Constable Shani Ashford, from ROCU, said: "Kevin and Connor abused the law and actively sought to convert weapons and supply ammunition to be used in crime to make money. They gave no thought to where the weapons they converted would be used and showed little regard for public safety.

"We are committed to removing illegal weapons from within our communities and these sentences should serve as a strong warning to others.

"Anyone who has information or is concerned about illegally held guns or ammunition should contact their local police or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111."

Nathan Bates, aged 30, of Heathway, Shard End, was sentenced to 42 months imprisonment for conspiracy to sell ammunition. Imran Khan, aged 36, of Murrell Close, Edgbaston, was sentenced to a total of 16 months imprisonment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply ammunition. He had previously denied the charge but changed his plea to guilty on day 11 of the trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

Khan had previously been sentenced to two years imprisonment after pleading guilty to possession of ammunition when he was stopped in a taxi by police.

Trudy Bates, of Peplow Road, Stechford, was convicted of conspiracy to sell ammunition and will be sentenced on April 6th. She was released on bail.

His Honour Judge Francis Laird QC addressed Kevin Bates and said: "You and your son Connor have engaged in a highly sophisticated operation and that operation involved the alteration of blank firing pistols and other legal firearms into prohibited weapons."

The Judge said he was satisfied that Kevin Bates was the organiser and "guiding light" of what went on and described the dad as a "highly skilled" man who worked closely with his son Connor.

For more information about the laws around obsolete calibre (antique) firearms please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/news/consultation-launched-on-laws-around-antique-firearms



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