Guner Salih is 60 years old. He is Turkish Cypriot, has lived in the UK for 40 years. He is married to Helen and has two grown up children. He was a market trader for 28 years until he took over his deceased father-in-law’s gun shop in London’s East End. Guner had no experience of the gun trade. He has never been in trouble with the law before.
He has been charged with:
- possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life (an old Astro-cub belonging to his late father-in-law);
- possession of prohibited CS gas batons; (German pre-war purchased by Guner in a market)
- possession of prohibited ammunition;
- possession of ammunition without a certificate (small amounts of bullets, again from late father-in-law’s old stock) – total of 4 counts.
5 counts of conspiracy with two separate sets of co-defendants. The first set, who had roughly 80 prior convictions between them, stated to the judge that Guner was not involved in any way. They pleaded guilty, were given 9 years and are now out. The second set (father and son) son was given 15 years and father was given 7 years and the father has only another year to serve. The father had 11 offences of possessing prohibited weapons (58 offences were taken into consideration) and a conviction for theft.
Guner was sentenced to 7 years for no. (1) above, reduced to 3 years on appeal, to run consecutively. For the remainder of the ammunition/CS charges he was given various sentences running concurrently, the maximum of which was 5 years. He was given 7 and a half years for each of the conspiracy charges, again each running consecutively. He is now serving 18 years reduced from the original 22 year sentence.
Both conspiracy charges relate to selling replica guns with intent to convert to firing weapons. Conversion tools were found in first co-defendants’ 7 lock-ups. No such equipment was ever found in Guner’s shop or home and he was acquitted from the charge of conversion, but charged with knowing about it and possibly re-selling the converted guns. During surveillance by police one only of first co-conspirators was seen entering 7 times and carrying something out twice. Another gun shop also under surveillance was seen to supply replica guns in bulk, but on challenge by police were given two days to get their receipts and paperwork in order. Guner was not. They stated they became suspicious and ceased to supply co-defendants in August, but they were seen in and out at least 3 times after that and were arrested outside the gun shop the following Feb. That gun shop was never searched.
Concerning the second co-defendants, the father was a weapons collector. Police inferredthat the son brought a bag to Guner’s shop containing the Astro-cub for Guner to re-sell. The conspiracy aspect relates to three bullets, one found in possession of first set of co-defendants, the second found in Guner’s possession and a third bullet found with second co-defendants. Prosecution stated 15-20% similarity between the three bullets. Defence stated no real similarity. The bullet relating to first co-defendants was destroyed by police.
The trial began in 2004. The first co-defendants pleaded guilty. Prosecution wanted Guner to stand alone. Shortly afterwards Guner had a massive heart and two cardiac arrests, had a stent put in and the trial resumed in 2005, but Guner then became too ill to carry on and the trial did not continue until 2006 by which time the second two co-defendants had been identified by police using Guner as the link between them. Guner’s defence counsel was then too busy to carry on and appointed another barrister in her place. Summing up was done by the judge in Guner’s absence, despite his request that he be present because the judge had considerable pressure from the jury, at least three of whom needed to leave by specific dates. Neither Guner nor his wife has ever seen the papers on the summing up by the judge.
Re: gun charges – Guner was collecting together all old weapons and ammunition on 1stApril 2003 to hand these in on first day of amnesty when police arrested him. Why was he not given the opportunity to do so?
Re: first co-defendants who actually said they were not connected in any way with Guner and yet they were ignored. Why?
Guner pleaded innocent throughout and ended up with a much longer sentence than those who had a string of prior convictions but had pleaded guilty.
Re: second set of co-defendants – the son got 7 years for conspiracy with Guner but the timescale does not match. Conspiracy period stated as 1st April to 30th June but Guner was arrested on 1st April and only came out of prison on 13th June. The son was in America until 28th June and was arrested on 30th June. Surely the whole conspiracy couldn’t have taken place in two days.
There has never been any DNA match with Guner to support the charges.
The indecent haste of the jury to convict on such flimsy evidence has clearly resulted in an unjust verdict.
Why were the police so lenient with the other gun shop?
We cannot help wondering whether the fact that Guner is a Turkish Moslem has contributed both to the charges in the face of lack of corroborative evidence and the jury’s view of the case during a period of high risk of terrorism.
Sadly, Guner is in extremely poor health and is unlikely to survive this prison sentence. It is even harder to survive in prison knowing that you are innocent.