Landowner’s court battle to keep gun licence

Date: Friday 24th February 2017
Michael Wentworth Waites
Michael Wentworth Waites

A FORMER City banker turned Cumbrian farmer “exploded” with “anger” after a father with two children strayed on to his land, a court was told.

Details of several claims made against 62-year-old Michael Wentworth Waites (pictured) — all of which he denies — emerged during a hearing at Carlisle Crown Court.

Mr. Wentworth Waites, of Thornthwaite Hall, Bampton, near Penrith, is appealing a senior Cumbria police officer’s decision in April last year to revoke a shotgun licence he had held for three decades.

The ruling was made in the wake of incidents allegedly involving Mr. Wentworth Waites on his own land.

During one, in March, 2014, a father and his two young sons trespassed on to a section of the farmer’s private land. Mr. Wentworth Waites approached, allegedly “shouting and swearing” even before dismounting his quad bike, the court heard.

The landowner was, the court was told, in a “rage with anger”. In a statement, the father said: “He just exploded, seeming to be unbothered about the presence of my children.

“They were getting upset. He was shouting aggressively. I would describe him as being out of control.”

Mr. Wentworth Waites received guidance about his responsibilities from a police constable, and later sought to allay the fears of a firearm licensing officer who paid him a separate visit.

But two women later reported that they were approached by Mr. Wentworth Waites on Christmas Eve, 2015, while walking dogs on his land.

Described as “aggressive and angry”, he allegedly stated: “I could shoot that dog, there are cattle around here with calves”. He also allegedly commented: “I can shoot trespassers”.

But, giving evidence, Mr. Wentworth Waites denied the alleged aggression and dismissed the “shoot” claims as “complete nonsense”.

“I was firm but courteous,” he said of that encounter.

He further denied swearing at the father during the earlier incident. Aware of cows with calves being close by, he feared the family were in “danger” on a crag with a steep drop.

Mr. Wentworth Waites said his shotgun was used only to control predators such as foxes and crows on the upland hill farm — always well away from public footpaths. It had never been used in any other way.

He acknowledged his legal “duty of care” — “even to trespassers”. He insisted the protection of people from “inherent” farm dangers was “extremely important” to him.

The appeal hearing continues and was adjourned until Wednesday.