A RARE reptile breeder could face a five-year prison sentence after admitting illegally possessing a shotgun and other weapons.

Jerry Fitzroy Cole, who houses a number of exotic animals at his farm on Bridport Road just outside Dorchester, pleaded guilty to the possession of a prohibited pump action shotgun when he appeared at Dorchester Crown Court.

Unless a legal challenge can be successfully mounted or exceptional circumstances are argued the offence carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

The charge involved a smoothbore 12-gauge pump action shotgun that was found in the 51-year-old’s possession between January 30 and February 3.

Cole also admitted the possession of a prohibited self-contained gas cartridge air weapon and a prohibited weapon designed or adapted for the discharge of noxious gases, liquid or substances.

Lewis Perry, representing Cole, said the weapons had been used for pest control at the defendant’s farm and indicated he did intend to mount a legal argument over whether the minimum five-year jail term applied.

The case was adjourned for a pre-sentence report to be prepared.

Cole was released on bail with a condition that he lives and sleeps each night at his farm until he returns to court to be sentenced today.

Judge Roger Jarvis told the defendant: “I’m sure you have been advised as to the court’s obligations in relation to sentence.

“It is obliged to pass a sentence of five years’ imprisonment.

“Mr Perry believes there are some legal submissions to make and I’m going to give him the opportunity to make those legal submissions on your behalf.

“I’m also going to require the preparation of a pre-sentence report.”

Back in 2004 reptile expert Mr Cole worked with a team at London Zoo to produce the first ever beaded lizards to be bred in the UK and in 2006 he became the first in the country to bred Fiji banded iguanas at his farm near Dorchester.

A year later he spoke to the Dorset Echo about his relief after planners from West Dorset District Council granted a retrospective planning application to use his farm for the breeding of rare and exotic animals.