A RARE reptile breeder has been jailed for five years after a search of his premises uncovered a number of illegal weapons.

Jerry Fitzroy Cole, who keeps a range of reptiles and exotic animals at his farm on Bridport Road just outside Dorchester, was sentenced at Dorchester Crown Court after admitting the possession of three prohibited weapons.

Two of the weapons, a pump action shotgun and a self-contained gas cartridge air weapon, were covered by a Parliamentary act which meant 51-year-old Cole faced a mandatory five-year sentence unless his barrister could argue exceptional circumstances.

Anita Gibson-Lee, prosecuting, told the court that police carried out an ‘extensive search’ of Mr Cole’s premises on January 30 and found the shotgun in the loft and the revolver air weapon in an outbuilding.

The third charge related to a canister of CS incapacitatant spray that was found by Mr Cole’s bed.

He claimed it was for protection after his property was previously the subject of a burglary.

Lewis Perry, representing Cole, argued that there were exceptional circumstances in his client’s case.

He said Cole was a man of previous good character who had a firearms and shotgun certificate as he needed to use weapons for pest control at his farm.

Mr Perry said: “There was no criminal intent in terms of these weapons.”

He said Cole obtained the shotgun around eight to 10 years ago after he found it in a house he had been renovating and used it to shoot vermin.

Mr Perry added that the revolver had not been used for around a decade and had only been used to fire blanks.

However, Judge Roger Jarvis said that the arguments put forward by Mr Perry did not constitute exceptional circumstances on Mr Cole’s part.

He told the defendant: “Here are you, 51 years of age, never having been in trouble before, now having to answer to some of the most serious crimes in the criminal calendar, possession of prohibited weapons.

The judge added: “The circumstances in which the weapons were found cause me a great deal of worry.

“The pump action shotgun was not in a secure cabinet and it was kept in a loft, the revolver was in an outbuilding and the third count was on a table by the bed.

“The pump action shotgun and the revolver are obviously worrying and dangerous looking weapons.”