AN angry Wiveliscombe sheep farmer who threatened to shoot a neighbour whose dogs he blamed for killing two of his ewes is facing a prison sentence.
Robert Norman, 53, of Hill Farm, Wiveliscombe, confronted Robert Webber at Pitpear Farm, Lydeard St Lawrence, on March 23 and demanded: “Where are your dogs? I’m going to shoot them.”
When his neighbour defied him, he pointed a shotgun at his chest and said “I’ll shoot you then”, Taunton Crown Court was told.
Emma Martin, prosecuting, said: “Mr Webber was looking down the barrel of the gun. He was absolutely terrified.”
The incident flared as Mr Webber was putting young children into his car after allowing them to bottle-feed his lambs.
Melissa Bell, who kept a horse at the farm, jumped between the men and tried to calm things down. Norman put the gun away and pushed her aside in order to throw punches at Mr Webber, who picked up a shovel to defend himself and backed away.
He told Norman: “I don’t want to hurt you, but I’ll protect my family.”
When the woman reminded them that children were present he drove off, shouting that it “wasn’t over”.
Police were scrambled with dogs and a helicopter when the alarm was raised and Norman was arrested later that evening.
He denied pointing the gun at Mr Webber and threatening to shoot him, and claimed the gun he had in his car was an air rifle.
Another neighbour told officers he had loaned Norman a shotgun that day and a .410 single-barrelled weapon was alleged to have been used in the incident.
Mr Webber told the court Norman drove up to his farm aggressively, throwing “a tirade of abuse, shouting and swearing at me”.
He said he explained that his dogs had been in their kennel all day and added: “I was trying to reason with him and all of a sudden my life was in danger.”
Norman admitted having borrowed a shotgun but said he left it outside a shed when he drove to see Mr Webber. He said he used the air rifle for shooting rats and got it from the back of his truck, holding it pointing downwards and not towards Mr Webber.
He said he was going to leave when Mr Webber “got lippy”, and denied threatening him with a firearm.
He described himself as a calm person and denied tiredness had caught up with him while working 20 hours a day during the lambing season.
A jury took less than one hour to convict him of possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
Judge David Ticehurst said a custodial sentence was the most likely outcome. He ordered pre-sentence reports and adjourned sentencing for one month.
Norman was released on bail to make arrangements for his farm. He will also be sentenced on charges of assault and possessing a shotgun without licence which he admitted earlier.