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North-east man ‘sickened’ by conviction after rifle found in his home following fire

Robert Riggs pictured with his dogs, Angus, Duchess, Midge and Jez.
Robert Riggs pictured with his dogs, Angus, Duchess, Midge and Jez.

An Aberdeenshire businessman whose rifle was discovered when his home was badly damaged in a fire says he is “sickened” with the justice system after being convicted for failing to lock it away.

Robert Riggs had been using the weapon for shooting rats in the summer of 2018 when he left it propped against a wall in his home.

It was when he then went away on holiday that a blaze broke out there and the emergency services came upon the gun.

Last December, the Insch 60-year-old was convicted of breaching the terms of his firearms licence at Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

Mr Riggs sought to appeal the sentence, claiming the rifle was locked inside the building and did not pose a danger – even though it was not secured in its metal cabinet.

The appeal has now been thrown out, but his fine was reduced from £3,000 to £1,000 after it was found to be excessive.

The Tikka bolt action rifle was discovered by firefighters called to the major blaze at the property in July 2018, which caused £200,000 worth of damage.

During the fire, a section of roof covering an entrance way, bathroom and utility room collapsed, with the entire house suffering smoke damage.

Mr Rigg said he had been out shooting vermin before leaving for a pre-planned holiday with his wife the next day.

He said he had removed the bolt from the rifle, cleaned it and left it out of the gun cabinet, leaning it against a wall to dry.

Mr Riggs’ firearms licence was taken away on July 15, 2018, the day of the fire, and returned to him this summer.

However, he has still not had his weapon returned to him.

The owner of a motorhome rental business, Mr Riggs owned the gun as a hobby, and for controlling pests.

The licence states that the gun is to be “stored securely as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, access to the firearms or ammunition by unauthorised persons”.

Mr Riggs yesterday argued that the gun, without the bolt, was “about as much use as a cricket bat”.

He added: “It would need someone with expertise to be able to fashion a bolt themselves.”

While admitting that leaving the gun outside its cabinet was an “oversight”, he said he had hoped that both his lack of a previous police record, and the additional security measures he had in place, would be considered by the sheriff.

“I take gun security very seriously, and although this was an oversight, I would have hoped that all the additional security measures I had in place would be taken into account,” he said.

“It couldn’t be accessed without the keys which I had on me.

“No-one would ever have known the gun was there but for the fire.

He added: “I could take it further but what’s the point, it’s done and dusted.

“I’m sickened with the whole thing.”

The original charge cited Mr Riggs’ failure to comply with the conditions of the firearms licence, in particular the requirement to prevent access to the weapon by an unauthorised person.

Delivering the appeal verdict, the sheriff reiterated Mr Riggs’ culpability on this point, however in reducing the fine referred to his removal of the bolt as “significantly mitigatory”.

The sheriff added that the failure to securely store the rifle “had been an oversight rather than a deliberate contravention of the appellant’s firearms certificate”.

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