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Gloucestershire Business News

Man cleared of intending to cause fear of violence

A Lithuanian man who fired an imitation pistol while confronting a neighbour whom he suspected of fly-tipping outside his Gloucester home has been cleared of intending to cause fear of violence.

Ramunas Mackevicius, 45, told a jury at Gloucester Crown Court he fired the fake weapon as a warning because he feared his wife was in danger during the row with neighbour James Watts at Walham, near Gloucester.

Mackevicius claimed he had been hit by Mr Watts during the confrontation and that his wife's phone had been taken from her by Mr Watts because she was filming him.

Jurors at Cirencester Courthouse acquitted Mackevicius of having a Retay XR 9mm blank firing top venting imitation pistol with intent to make Mr Watts believe unlawful violence would be used against him - but they convicted him of damaging a window of Mr Watts' pick-up trick with a golf club.

The judge, Recorder Richard Mawhinney, conditionally discharged Mackevicius for six months and ordered him to pay £120 compensation for the damage as well as a £22 surcharge.

Recorder Mawhinney told Mackevicius that he considered the criminal damage conviction to be 'at the very bottom of the level of seriousness.'

"You had been hit, and your wife's phone had been taken and you were chasing after Mr Watts," said the Recorder.

He ordered that the imitiation gun be returned to Mackevicius as the police have accepted it was lawfully owned by him.

The jury heard during the trial that armed police were deployed to the incident on the Western outskirts of Gloucester near the River Severn after Mackevicius had first brandished the golf club and damaged Mr Watts' vehicle before fetching the pistol from his caravan and discharging it.

Mackevicius, now of Court Farm Close, Tewkesbury, who was at that time living on land at Severnside Farm, Walham, denied charges of having an imitation pistol with intent to make Mr Watts believe unlawful violence would be used against him and criminally damaging Mr Watts' truck.

Prosecutor James Haskell said the incident happened on 22nd January 2021 and some of it was recorded by Mr Mackevicius' wife on her mobile phone.

Her video of the confrontation was played to the jury at the start of the prosecution case.

Mr Haskell said there was a background of 'some tension' between the Mackevicius family and Mr Watts.

"Rightly or wrongly it seems that the defendant and his wife were convinced that Mr Watts was fly tipping in the area," he said. "But this trial is not about whether Mr Watts was or was not fly tipping.

"There is no dispute, however, that whatever happened that night it caused Mr and Mrs Mackevicius to go and confront Mr Watts.

"It appears that right from the outset Mr Mackevicius had armed himself with a golf club.

"Mr Watts says the defendant swung at him with the club but fortunately missed. It seems that sparked a scuffle in which Mr Watts snatched the defendant's wife's phone from her.

"Mr Watts then ran off. He says he was pursued by the defendant and his wife and he saw Mr Mackivicius using the golf club to deliberately smash one of the windows of his van.

"The defendant then escalated the situation still further. He returned to his static caravan and obtained a pistol.

"There is no dispute that it was not a real gun. But we say that Mr Watts wouldn't have known that at the time. The pistol, which was later seized by the police, looks like a real handgun.

"We say it was wholly disproportionate for this defendant to go and fetch an item with the appearance of a real gun and then brandish and discharge it.

"It was a calculated decision by him that was designed to cause Mr Watts to fear unlawful violence would be used against him.

"There is no suggestion that he aimed the weapon directly at Mr Watts.

"In fact it was blanks that were being discharged but Mr Watts is not a firearms expert and that is not something he would have known. "

Mr Haskell said an armed police unit attended the scene and both men were arrested and a search of Mackevicius' caravan revealed the pistol.

"The Gloucestershire Constabulary armourer found that although it was not a real gun it was fully functional with live blank ammunition. It was legal to possess without a licence but it had been made to look like an authentic self-loading pistol. "

Interviewed by police, Mackevicius alleged that Mr Watts had been aggressive and kicked him early on in the confrontation. He said he had damaged Mr Watts' van accidentally when he tripped while holding the golf club.

"He admitted returning home and retrieving what he described as a toy gun which he said he had purchased to scare people off his land. He said the reason he discharged the weapon was to Mr Woods from assaulting his wife."

In evidence Mr Watts said he runs a small gardening business and uses his land at Walham to offload woodchips and timber - and to care for a horse he had rescued.

He said he and Mackevicius had 'fallen out' and on the day of the incident when he arrived at his site to check on his horse he was shocked to find Mackevicius 'waving a golf club' and his wife filming him on her phone.

"They were accusing me of fly tipping, which is something we do have a problem with and it goes back years, prior to when I was there," he said.

"I kicked off a bit because they said I was tipping. She was filming me and I remember running back to my van a few times to find my phone because I was going to film them. I didn't think it was fair that they could record me and I couldn't record them. "

Mr Watts accepted that at one point he lunged forward and pushed Mackevicius.

"It was after he swung at me with the golf club," he said.

Mr Watts said Mackevicius retreated but he then heard 'a few shots' from a gun.

"I could see he was 9-10 metres away holding a gun up. As far as I was concerned it was a real live gun. I ran into a neighbouring plot. I was in a state of shock. I have never had anything like that happen to me before.I think the gun was fired 2-3 times with a 1-2 second pause between each shot."

In evidence Mackevicius said he fired the gun only once and it was because of how aggressive Mr Watts was being.

"I was scared for my wife," he said. "I wanted nothing to happen to my wife."

He said he and his wife had gone to the scene to gather evidence of fly tipping by Mr Watts and he took the golf club in case he was assaulted by him.

Mackevicius maintained that Mr Watts would have known the pistol was not real because it had been used by him at New Year when he fired it in the presence of neighbours.

On the night of the incident, he said, he felt under stress, scared and intimidated and he fired the gun as a warning.

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