Swindon man who fired at police after stealing a lorry at gunpoint is jailed for 12-and-a-half years

A man who fired a gas-powered air weapon at police officers after stealing a lorry at gunpoint in Swindon has been jailed for a catalogue of offences.

Howard Jones, 59, of Stratton Road, appeared at Swindon Crown Court today (18/02) for sentencing.

He was jailed for a total of 12 years and six months.

Jones had pleaded guilty to the following charges:

• Blackmail

• Possession of a firearm or imitation firearm whilst committing or being arrested for a schedule 1 offence

• Robbery

• False imprisonment

• ABH (against a police officer)

• Assault on an emergency worker

• Breach of bail

The blackmail charge relates to an incident in the town on 25 May 2020 where Jones threated his former employer with violence if he was not paid £100,000.

Jones was arrested, charged and remanded by the police for this offence, but was released on bail by magistrates following a court appearance.

On 16 June 2020, while on bail, he went to his former employer's offices and, armed with a weapon, stole a lorry.

Police officers, including armed response officers, attended and intercepted the lorry in the Rivermead Industrial Estate, in Westlea.

Jones deliberately fired shots at the police, hitting an officer in the face but thankfully causing only minor injuries, and was subsequently shot in the leg by an armed police officer, before being arrested.

The weapon - a gas-powered air pistol - was seized at the scene.

Due to the fact that a police firearm was discharged during the incident, the matter was automatically referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), as it is a statutory requirement to do so.

They have now completed their independent investigation and concluded that they have no concerns about the policing response to the incident.

Their findings, which were made public earlier this month, determined there were no criminal, misconduct or performance matters identified for the police officers and staff involved, but that there is also no requirement for any organisational learning.

Detective Superintendent Chris Hanson said: "This incident caused understandable concern amongst the local community at the time and I am pleased that the full facts of what happened that evening have now been made public.

"The blackmail offence, and the offences linked to the incident in Ridge Green, illustrate that Jones is a reckless and dangerous individual, with complete disregard for the safety of the public. He also had a genuine desire to injure the police officers who responded on 16 June.

"Both the ABH charge and the assault on an emergency worker charge relate to attacks on police officers who were assaulted in the line of duty.

"Finally, I would like to pay tribute to the officers involved in this case - both the firearms officers who responded to the incident but also the detectives who worked tirelessly to bring Jones to justice."

Assistant Chief Constable Deb Smith added: "Today's sentencing marks the end of a lengthy and complex case, which included the independent investigation into the actions of the officers and staff who responded on the day of the incident.

"As I said when the IOPC findings were released earlier this month, the armed officers who responded that evening showed huge levels of bravery and professionalism and I would like to commend them for their actions."

Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon Angus Macpherson said: "Understandably, this incident caused a great deal of concern and anxiety within our communities in Swindon and this was compounded by the fact that, at the time, Wiltshire Police was unable to release most of the detail surrounding it due to the independent IOPC investigation.

"I hope that today, people living and working in Swindon will have had the opportunity to hear the full facts of what happened and, more importantly, the context in which a police firearm was used.

"In the immediate aftermath of the incident, the Community Policing Team ramped up their patrols and visibility in the area which, for me, illustrates just how important having officers out and about in our communities is."

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