A judge has told a gamekeeper convicted of manslaughter that he had a ”blatant disregard” for gun safety.
Ben Wilson was jailed for seven years after his shotgun was accidentally fired in a pub car park in Llanbedrog in February 2017, killing 18 year-old Peter Colwell.
Wilson (29) from Ely, Cambridgeshire, denied gross negligence but was found guilty at Caernarfon Crown Court following two trials.
Another gamekeeper, Ben Fitzsimons, (23), from Nanhoron near Pwllheli, was jailed for two years. He was cleared of manslaughter by a jury but admitted possessing a loaded shotgun in a public place.
Mr Colwell (18) died from a single shotgun wound during a night out with Wilson, Fitzsimons and two other men cleared of all charges. They had been on a pub crawl around the Llyn Peninsula.
During the trial, the court heard Wilson kept his gun in the foothole of a Land Rover Discovery, propped up with the muzzle pointing at the rear of the vehicle.
Fitzsimons claimed he checked the gun outside a pub in Abersoch earlier in the evening to ensure it was safe. But while Wilson went to the toilet at the Ship Inn, the gun was accidentally discharged, killing Mr Colwell.
In a victim impact statement read to court, Peter’s father Robert Alan Jones said his son’s death had ”destroyed” their family.
He said he was shocked when a police officer called at his home near Clynnog overnight to tell the family Peter was dead, leaving his daughter Kimberley unable to sleep by herself.
His mother, Fiona Brett, described Peter as a ”charming little boy” who ”had his whole time ahead of him”.
She said: ”No one except those involved will ever know exactly what happened that night” and Peter would never get the chance ”to make a career, to meet someone and fall in love, to have children of his own.”
Sentencing the pair, Judge Rhys Rowlands told Wilson he had a ”appalingly lax” attitude to guns. There had been other occasions when he left a loaded shotgun in his car – and that either through ”arrogance or ignorance”, his disregard for the rules of gun safety was ”long standing and blatant”.
In a statement issued through his defence lawyers, Fitzsimons said he would have to live with the tragedy for the rest of his life.
He said: ”I deeply regret getting into a vehicle for a night out which contained a loaded shotgun and I should simply have refused to get into that car…I believe to this day that the state in which I left the gun outside St Tudwal’s public house in Abersoch was safe and I believe the jury have accepted that my account is the truth.”
”I appreciate that is insignificant compared to the loss Peter’s family will have to deal with for the rest of their lives, and any relief I feel for myself is tempered by the knowledge of the loss that will be with them forever.”
After sentencing on Thursday, North Wales Police said Mr Colwell’s death was ”totally avoidable”.
The man who led the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Gerwyn Thomas, hit out at both Wilson and Fitzsimons: ”This case demonstrates the catastrophic consequences that can follow when people show an arrogant, casual disregard for basic gun safety and the privilege afforded them of holding a gun licence.”
He added: ”Those issued with gun licences for their work or for their leisure activities have a great responsibility to adhere to the strict licence conditions at all times for their own safety and the safety of others.”
”These men have rightly been given prison sentences and I hope they will spend the time to reflect on their most irresponsible behaviour.”