Oldham men who converted blank-firing pistols into lethal guns jailed for combined 20 years.

Date published: 01 December 2021

Two men from Oldham who converted blank-firing pistols into lethal guns and sold them on have been jailed for a combined total of 20 years.

It follows an investigation by detectives cracking down on illegally converted guns which are then passed on to criminals across the region.

Mark McNamara, of Bankfield Drive, Oldham and Corey Atkinson, of Farm Road, Oldham, were caught by Operation Lyra, an investigation launched in 2020 by GMP's Serious and Organised Crime Group.

The pair were sentenced at Manchester Minshull Street yesterday (30 November 2021).

They both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell or transfer firearms and ammunition and conspiracy to convert imitation firearms into prohibited weapons.

Atkinson was sentenced to 12 years and McNamara was sentenced to eight years. 

The pair were found to be illegally converting Retay weapons, which are legal semi-automatic blank firing pistols and have a similar appearance to illegal firearms. 

Across the whole operation, a total of 10 converted guns were found and seized by detectives with six at Corey Atkinson's address on Farm Road in Oldham and the rest linked by forensics and intelligence by detectives.

Atkinson was found to be illegally converting Retay weapons and this was further evidenced following a DNA hit on a firearm found by a police officer in Wigan on 21 September last year, after a member of the public reported 'two suspicious males' in a wooded area.

On 21 October 2020, officers carried out a search at an address in Oldham where they discovered six converted Retay guns, 46 modified bullets and 38 other bullets, sawn off metal tubes and a cutting disc.

Detective Superintendent Chris Mossop, who led the investigation, said: "Yesterday's significant sentences are a huge step forward in our aim to take those involved in converting legal firearms into deadly weapons.

"We're working relentlessly to really drive a wedge between organised crime groups and the possession, supply and use of weapons in Greater Manchester.

"Atkinson was clearly an illegal converter with the help of McNamara - the pair were working together to turn Retay guns into live firing deadly weapons where they could end up in the hands of criminals and ultimately cost someone's life.

"These two men are two more put behind bars and therefore a gap in the supply chain for criminals.

"We will not stop pursuing such dangerous and scheming individuals across our region and our focus remains on taking strong action against those in society who brazenly involve themselves in the use, trade and criminal conversion of firearms in Greater Manchester and we will ensure that those we suspect of having such involvement will face prosecution and be taken from our streets."

Alan Bates, GMP's Firearms and Licensing Manager, said: "This case shows that blank firing pistols are being sourced from legitimate and legal dealers and other retailers but they are being illegally converted before being misused by criminals.

"Registered firearms dealers and other retailers are asked to contact us with any unusual transactions or suspicious activity - even the smallest bit of information could be a huge step and ultimately save a life.

"It's illegal to possess most firearms without a licence in the UK and law enforcement across the country are working hard and sharing intelligence to half criminals' ability to acquire, distribute and sell firearms.

"It's an offence under the Firearms Act to convert an imitation or realistic imitation firearm and it's also an offence to alter the colour of an imitation firearm which are sold with at least 50% of their surface area painted a bright colour.

"If in doubt, contact a Registered Firearms Dealer, shooting organisation or your local Firearms Licensing Unit.

"The issue around Retay guns is of growing concern not only in our region, but across the country and we're working alongside partners and other law enforcement agencies to crackdown on those creating lethal weapons and putting lives at risk."

GMP has a team of detectives working to combat serious crime and gun converting but information from the public - no matter how big or small, helps with investigations.

To report any concerns or information about firearms activity, report it to police online at www.gmp.police.uk or via 101. Always call 999 in an emergency.

Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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