A Borderer released early from prison was jailed for 45 months at the High Court in Edinburgh this week, after selling banned bullets, which are designed to expand on impact, to undercover police officers.
Stuart McCutcheon, 24, of Berrymoss Court, Kelso, was caught selling the prohibited ammunition during a major policing operation in the Borders called Operation Goal. He pled guilty to the firearms offences on Monday.
The High Court heard how McCutcheon met the officers, known as “Mikey” and “Ross”, in May this year after hearing they had designer clothing for sale.
He went to a house in Henderson Court, Kelso, to view items and got into a conversation with the pair.
Prosecuting, advocate depute Shanti Maguire said: “During the course of the discussions, the accused asked the officers if they were interested in ‘metal’.
“The officers took that to mean firearms. He went on to state that he would be able to source a firearm.” The prosecutor added that the undercover officers subsequently received text messages and calls from McCutcheon.
She said: “On one occasion, McCutcheon telephoned and stated that he did not have possession of a firearm, but that he was in possession of .22 high velocity rounds of bullets, and asked one of the officers whether he would be interested in buying them.”
During a call on May 23, McCutcheon then negotiated a price for the ammunition saying he could not sell for less than 30p a bullet. One of the officers confirmed that they were willing to buy the bullets, and an arrangement was made with McCutcheon to meet him the next day near his girlfriend’s home in Peebles.
The undercover officers turned up at Glen Road, Peebles, and McCutcheon arrived to meet them. He told them the bullets were in a nearby grit bin. McCutcheon, a father-of-two, went to the bin and returned with a carrier bag and said it contained only 99 bullets as one was missing.
He said the bag should be disposed of as it had his fingerprints on it. Money was handed over in exchange for the box of bullets in the bag. The bullets were found to be prohibited ammunition.
The court also heard that McCutcheon had been released from prison in March this year on a supervised release order. He was jailed for more than two years in May last year at Selkirk Sheriff Court for a number of offences, including a contravention of firearms legislation.
When he appeared at the High Court, McCutcheon admitted further breaches of the Firearms Act, including possessing the prohibited ammunition and selling or transferring it to law enforcement officers.
Defence counsel Frank Gallagher said McCutcheon was “no stranger to the court system” and that he accepted responsibility for his actions.
Lord Uist told McCutcheon that he would have faced a five-year jail sentence if he had been convicted of the latest offences following a trial.
The judge pointed out that McCutcheon’s criminal record consisted of 17 separate court appearances.
Operation Goal is an ongoing multi-agency initiative across the Borders to tackle drug crime and associated offences, and improve the quality of life for all members of the community within the region.
A total of 54 people have been charged following its enforcement activity, with seven individuals now convicted and serving custodial sentences, and a series of trials currently ongoing.
Detective Chief Inspector Amanda McGrath welcomed McCutcheon’s sentence, and warned of a similar fate for those involved in serious and organised crime within the Borders.
She said: “The Borders remain a safe place to live, work and visit. However, drug crime and other linked offences can seriously impact on communities, and it became clear through our engagement with the public that they were tired of those involved in crime blighting their local area.
“Operation Goal continues to promote intervention measures throughout the region and police, council and health work side by side to deter crime, improve the quality of life for our various communities and to offer support for those involved in drug related activity to overcome their addictions.
“Lothian and Borders Police will not tolerate drug crime and other serious offences, and will build a robust case against anyone found to be involved, to ensure they are removed from our communities for considerable time.”