Farmer, 83, cleared of GBH for shooting convicted burglar on his property

Russell Hope, News Reporter

An 83-year-old farmer who shot a man he suspected of being a thief has been found not guilty of grievous bodily harm.

Kenneth Hugill, of Wilberfoss, East Yorkshire, said he had not meant to harm Richard Stables - who was shot in the foot - and fired to scare off intruders he thought were there to steal diesel.

Mr Hugill had gone to bed at 9pm with his wife Sheila but was woken by a light at around 2am.

"The next thing was a slight silhouette of a vehicle going past the farmyard entrance," he told Hull Crown Court. "The vehicle did not have its lights on. I thought it was up to no good."

Once outside, Mr Hugill said he was "petrified" when he heard its engine revving, fearing it was being driven towards him.

"I pulled the trigger because I thought that car was going to kill me," he told jurors.

Mr Hugill said he had not intended to injure anyone and did not realise anyone had been hit.

"I fired a shot down the side of the vehicle, near to the floor, into the ground to stop it coming at me," he said of the incident on 13 November 2015.

He said he had fired the second shot in the air so "they would keep on going and not come back".

The pensioner hit convicted burglar Richard Stables, 44, in the foot.

He denied attempting to steal diesel and said he had been out hunting with a friend when he stumbled on the farm and was shot without warning.

But the jury in the three-day trial deliberated for just 24 minutes before accepting Mr Hugill's version of events.

Mr Hugill, who uses a walking stick and a hearing aid, thanked the jury, but criticised prosecutors.

"We thought I shouldn't have been prosecuted right from the start, I didn't feel it was justified at the time," he said.

His son, David, who said the farm had experienced problems with poaching and attempted diesel thefts, accused police of taking 15 hours to respond before later taking a heavy-handed approach.

He described how he was greeted by armed police, forensic officers, a helicopter and an ambulance when he arrived at the farm at 5pm the following day.

"They told us they heard there had been a firearms offence and they were looking for hostages," he said.

David Hugill said he and his father were arrested, photographed, fingerprinted and had DNA samples taken before being locked in police cells for three to four hours.

Police and prosecutors have defended their actions.

Detective Chief Superintendent Matt Hutchinson, of Humberside Police, said the response "was appropriate given that someone sustained serious injuries after being shot".

The Crown Prosecution Service maintained that bringing the case to trial was "in the public interest".

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