Man jailed for one year after mistaking free runners for burglars

A man who admitted using an air rifle to shoot a pair of free runners in Horsham town centre has been given a one year jail sentence.

JPCT 061113 Eric Kingston 2
JPCT 061113 Eric Kingston 2

Eric Kingston, 47, of Market Square, was jailed on Tuesday, having pleaded guilty to two counts of assault causing actual bodily harm.

Prosecutor Mark Robinson told Brighton Law Courts that Max Cave, Luke Harty, Hamza Shabazz and Ryan Walsh were free runners who were on the roof of Ryman’s Stationers in the Carfax around 5pm on August 11 this year. He said the roof was effectively a building site and, unknown to the four, Kingston was living on site.

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Kingston realised there were people on the roof and, thinking they were burglars, opened fire with a .22 air rifle. He later told police that he kept the air rifle for shooting pigeons.


Mr Cave was hit by a pellet, then the group scattered, trying to reach ground level by climbing down scaffolding.

They were still on the scaffolding when Kingston reached the edge of the building and started shooting again, hitting Mr Harty before the free runners could get away. Mr Robinson said two of them had shouted to Kingston not to shoot, saying that they weren’t burglars.

Mr Osborne, representing Kingston, said he is a man of ‘hitherto exemplary character’, who had reacted to what he thought was an attempted burglary. “This man offers sincere apologies to the young men involved. At the same time, he does ask the court to take account of the circumstances as he perceived them at the time,” he said.

Judge Paul Tain said: “These young men were engaged in a perfectly innocent pursuit. It may be occasionally tiresome for people, because trespass is an almost inevitable consequence of free running.”

He added: “I would be failing in my public duty if I didn’t send the clearest signal that if you shoot people with a .22 air rifle, and if that shooting involves pursuit when they have disengaged, and if the circumstances present so many opportunities for disengagement by the person with the rifle and they don’t take those opportunities for disengagement, then the public at large would regard it as quite improper for me to suspend that sentence.” He jailed Kingston for one year, and ordered him to pay £320 costs and a £100 victim surcharge.