Many of the weapons are disguised as torches and are being smuggled into the UK by drivers from the Continent, where they are sold legally.
A top judge has warned lorry drivers they face a minimum of five years behind bars for bringing the weapons in. But drivers say they”ve no choice – they risk attack from violent migrants trying to clamber on board their trucks in the desperate scramble to reach “Benefits” Blighty.
Julie Maddox, a spokeswoman for the Freight Transport Association said she is not surprised some drivers have decided to take the law into their own hands.
“I went over to France last year and came back through Calais in the cab of a lorry.
“The drivers are not exaggerating. They are surrounded on a regular basis by people with knives, guns, baseball bats, bricks, any weapons they can find.
“They have people dropping from bridges and cutting their way into the lorries, without the drivers” knowledge.
“We don”t condone the use of stun guns, of course, but when the drivers are fearing for their lives you can almost understand why they would feel the need to have them.”
She said the much-touted security fencing, installed after immigrant battles last summer, appear to have made little difference.
“The extra fencing is not working. When we were there we saw people able to roam quite freely in the area that”s meant to be secure.” Sentencing guidelines recommend judges hand out stiff jail sentences to those caught with the illegal weapons in their cabs. In the latest case, a Lithuanian driver, Thomas Praspalaliauskas, 26, was jailed for 14 months for possessing a disguised weapon.
Prosecutor Jim Harvey said the driver had been stopped in Dover in October and asked if he was carrying a taser or stun gun. He denied he had any weapon but Border Force officers discovered an empty packet and he produced the stun gun from his cab, Canterbury Crown Court was told.
Puneet Rai, defending, said the driver was ignorant of the UK ban and had only bought the stun gun after being assured it wouldn”t seriously hurt anyone. Mr Rai said he claimed he had only ever used the weapon as a torch and was ignorant of the ban. But Judge Adele Williams said “That is something many defendants claim but I don”t find that compelling.
“He was an international lorry driver who would make sure he knew what he could take over borders.”
The judge said whatever the provocation, the message needed to go out “loud and clear” to HGV drivers that stun guns are prohibited in the UK under the 1968 Firearms Act.
“Not only is it illegal to bring them in but it is treated very seriously by the courts because they are weapons which can cause serious harm.”
Last November, in another case, a British lorry driver who bought a stun gun to protect himself from migrants in Calais was spared jail.
Norman Garrett, 52, was shown mercy by Judge David Goodin at Ipswich Crown Court after saying he regularly faced baying mobs of migrants at the French port. He was given a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years after claiming he did not realise the weapon was illegal in the UK when he was found with it at the Port of Felixstowe, Suffolk.
He bought it for 20 euros from a Dutch driver while he was regularly facing migrants trying to board lorries at the French port. The married father-of-two faced a maximum penalty of ten years jail for possessing a stun gun as a prohibited weapon.
The judge ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the stun gun which doubled as a torch. Garrett said he had only used it as a torch to check his lorry for roadworthiness and illegal immigrants before driving from the continent to the UK.
The 6ft 5ins tall driver insisted that he would have only used the stun gun as a last resort if he was in danger. The court heard that the device and an old stun gun which no longer worked were found in his cab at Felixstowe at 3am on March 13th last year.
He was initially charged with a firearms-related offence carrying a minimum five year jail sentence and a maximum penalty of life. But he was instead charged with the lesser offence of having a stun gun as a prohibited weapon.
Garrett, a lorry driver for 20 years, had been working for a Dutch company driving in Holland, France, Belgium, and Luxembourg at the time of his arrest.
But the stress of waiting eight months to be sentenced led to him giving up his job delivering produce for sale at UK markets.
He said after the case “I bought this thing as a genuine torch. I had only used it as a torch. If I had known it was illegal in the UK of course I would never have touched it.
“The police and the judge accepted I didn”t know, but ignorance is no excuse. It”s a reason, but no excuse.
“I”m sorry any of it happened. I was sure I was going to get a prison term.
“Until this happened life couldn”t get much better. I haven”t worked since July, mainly through the stress of the case.”
He said the problem of illegal migrants at the French ports of Calais and Dunkirk had got far worse in the past 18 months. One slip road to Calais docks where lorry drivers had to queue up to enter the port was “a no go area” for police at night, he claimed.
Migrants swarm over lorries trying to get into them or on to them.
“I”m scared of no man – same as all the drivers – but when you see a mob right in front you, it controls everything. I”ve seen police with tear gas step backwards” he said.
“When you have got a group of 100 people intimidation doesn”t even cover it.”