A gang leader who controlled the British underworld's most used gun was today jailed for 21 years.
James Lunt headed up "Wavo 420", a cannabis supply network that operated on the streets around his home in Wavertree, Liverpool.
He used an arsenal of weapons that included a Beretta handgun responsible for 17 shootings on Merseyside alone.
Lunt also had access to an Uzi sub-machine gun that could fire 600 rounds a minute, as well as a sawn-off shotgun.
While the 29-year-old was not accused of pulling the trigger of any of those weapons he was locked up for leading a drug and guns conspiracy that included an attack in which the Beretta was fired 11 times at a man in a Wavertree street.
Mark Gaskill was hit in the head but was saved by the motorbike helmet he was wearing when he pulled up on Stevenson Street on May 19, 2017. The prosecution said mobile phone records showed the gang, led by Lunt, of nearby Celendine Close, was behind the attack.
Due to that evidence and his position at the head of the group Judge Rachel Smith accepted it was unlikely the shooting took place without his knowledge, though he said the decision to shoot Gaskill in the head could not be attributed to the dad.
The Beretta 9000S handgun fired in that attack was linked to a total of 19 incidents in England and Scotland and seized the following month when Merseyside Police raided the Kirkby home of Adam Bigley.
Armed police raided his Windfield Road property hours after surveillance teams watched Bigley and Lunt hold a meeting surrounded by children playing in Picton Playground, Wavertree. The loaded gun was hidden behind bathroom pipes.
Bigley, 26, was previously sentenced to six years and nine months for possession of the gun and ammunition.
Lunt was not linked to any of the shootings carried out with the Beretta before the Stevenson Street attack.
But the investigation sparked by the shooting of Mr Gaskill led detectives to delve into Lunt’s cannabis street dealing operation, gradually picking off his associates and the weapons they had access to.
That included the discovery of the Uzi at a home in Toxteth and the shotgun, found buried near a tree in parkland close to his home.
Over 11 months of hearings at Liverpool Crown Court prosecutors Nigel Power, QC and Nicola Daley detailed the drug and gun network to two juries. The prosecution concluded with the sentencing of Lunt and seven of his associates today.
Commenting on the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Steve Reardon said:
“Those convicted today were caught up in a web of conspiracy involving the supply of guns and drugs on the streets of Merseyside. “Thanks to the sterling work of the National Ballistsics Intelligence Service, which was able to identify the Beretta and the Uzi submachine gun along with DNA of some of the suspects, we were able to focus our investigations and link these two groups.
“Today they have been sentenced to a total of 88 years in jail, which shows the severity of their crimes. Two of the weapons we recovered were responsible for 21 shootings on Merseyside - 16 shots fired and five resulting in injury, this could easily have been a very different story. “One shooting on Merseyside is one too many.
“Whilst there is no doubt in my mind that Merseyside is a safer place with these weapons off the streets there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that criminals know that the people of Merseyside will not tolerate the use of firearms on our streets.
“Together with our communities we need to transfer the fear of gun crime back on to those prepared to use guns on our streets – if you have information, which could help us put those involved in serious and organised crime before the courts, let us know and we will take positive action.” Gang members jailed today:
James Peter Lunt, 29, of Celendine Close, Wavertree, pleaded guilty to conspiracies to possess firearms with intent to endanger life; possess prohibited firearms for transfer; possess ammunition without a certificate; and to supply Class A drugs (cocaine) and Class B drugs (cannabis).
He was jailed for 21 years with an extended licence period of three years. He will serve at least two thirds of that sentence before being considered for parole.
Lee Spencer Brown, 30, of Holmrook Road, Norris Green, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply a Class B controlled drug (cannabis). He was sentenced to six and a half years in jail.
Catherine McGuinness, 50, of Nickleby Close, Toxteth. The Uzi submachine gun was recovered from her home on October 19, 2017.
She was found guilty of conspiracy to possess firearms with intent to endanger life; possess prohibited firearms for transfer and possess ammunition without a certificate. The mum was jailed for 12 years.
Michael Connerty, 33, of Lemon Close, Wavertree. He was found guilty of conspiracy to possess firearms with intent to endanger life; conspiracy to possess prohibited firearms for transfer; conspiracy to possess ammunition without a certificate and conspiracy to supply Class B controlled drugs (cannabis).
Connerty was jailed for 14 years and will serve half of that sentence before being eligible for release.
Thomas Porterfield, 37, of Llangollen. His DNA was found on the Uzi. He was found guilty of conspiracy to possess firearms with intent to endanger life; conspiracy to possess prohibited firearms for transfer and conspiracy to possess ammunition without a certificate. He was sentenced to 13 years in jail.
Alan E'Von, 22, of no fixed abode, was described as a "foot soldier" in the shooting plot. His DNA was recovered at the scene of the injury shooting on Stevenson Street.
He was not the gunman but was found guilty of conspiracy to possess firearms with intent to endanger life and conspiracy to possess ammunition without a certificate.
He was sentenced to 13 years in jail. James Bennett, 25, of Arnold Grove in Wavertree, was convicted of conspiracy to supply cannabis. He was jailed for five and a half years.
Lee Jones, 25, of Mile End, Vauxhall, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply a Class B controlled drug (cannabis).
He was sentenced to three years in jail.