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Police praised for "courage" in speargun standoff

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Wednesday 22 September 2021

Police praised for "courage" in speargun standoff

A 43-year-old man has been given a four-year prison sentence, which could be spent entirely in a UK mental health facility, after he pointed spearguns at “terrified” police officers in a two hour standoff.

During the sentencing of Robert John Ingram Moon yesterday, Deputy Bailiff Robert MacRae praised the four officers who had been involved in the case for “their courage and their resolve."

In February of this year, Moon stood trial for two counts of grave and criminal assault and one count of affray.

Moon's case was notable as it was the first time Jersey's 2016 mental health law had been tested, after he argued he was so mentally ill on the day of the offences in May 2020 that he could not be held criminally liable for his actions.

However, the jury disagreed with this, giving a majority verdict that Moon was in fact responsible.


Pictured: Deputy Bailiff Robert MacRae oversaw the sentencing.

Prosecuting, Crown Advocate Rebecca Morley-Kirk recounted during yesterday's hearing how, the day before the speargun incident, Moon had been taken to hospital after being put on bail by police in relation to a separate incident. He was taken to hospital in the early hours of 15 May, but left later in the morning against health staff's advice.

The hospital notified Police and, around 06:45, officers went to Moon's home to perform a welfare check and potentially bring him back to hospital.

When one officer opened the door to go inside after knocking and not getting a response, he saw Moon crouched down holding one speargun in each hand, with metal tips pointing directly at the Officer.

The officer took cover behind a police car opposite the house with two colleagues, "terrified" and thinking that Moon intended to fire the spearguns at him.

The officers were then given authority to arm from the Force Control Room, as the incident was involving a weapon.

Additional armed officers and a negotiator arrived, with the area sealed off to prevent harm to the general public, though a crowd had already gathered nearby.

The situation unfolded in a two-hour siege, where it was said that Moon raised one or both of the spearguns at officers, who in turn raised their weapons in response, as he verbally tried to goad them into shooting him.

He also was said to be expressing anger at the bail conditions imposed on him the day before.

It was later established that one of the spearguns was broken and only one of them worked properly - however, the spears had been loaded into the relevant housing in the guns, leaving officers terrified and believing that, if fired, the spears could cause damage.

At one point, Moon was also seen pointing a red object at officers, which they thought could be a handgun or a flare gun, as he was holding it in a pistol grip - it later transpired that this was a handheld thermometer.

The face-off drew to an end at 09:05 when a trained negotiator arrived and Moon exited the property, after which he was arrested for grave and criminal assault. He was admitted to Orchard House later that day, being treated there for five weeks before being released into police custody.

Following his conviction in at trial, his mental health declined, and on 6 May 2021 he was transferred to Brockfield House in the UK for treatment, where he has remained since.

During yesterday's sentencing, the court heard from two medical professionals who had dealt with Moon, with both giving details of his mental health difficulties.

With these difficulties taken into account, Advocate Morley-Kirk said that the Crown considered Moon's culpability to be in the "mid-range" - not sufficiently low enough to weigh his sentence fully to rehabilitation, but not high enough that it would be solely towards punishment either.

Defencing, Advocate Adam Harrison accepted the jury's conclusion that Moon had some responsibility for his actions, but said that evidence showed his psychological symptoms had "impaired his ability to make rational judgement", and that there still was a "causal relationship" between his mental disorder and the offending behaviour.

He further pointed out that Moon did not fire his working weapon, despite having an opportunity to do so, arguing his motivation had not been to cause harm to anyone but himself, and that he had expressed regret about the impact his actions had on officers.

Handing down the sentence, the Deputy Bailiff - sitting with Jurats Charles Richard Blampied, Steven William Austin-Vautier and Joanne Kim Averty - told Moon that the court had found under Article 67 of the Mental Health Jersey Law 2016 that he was suffering from a mental disorder of a nature warranting "attention in an approved establishment."

Addressing Moon's offences, the Deputy Bailiff told Moon that the police were "entitled to the protection of the courts."

"People who commit grave and criminal assaults upon police officers upon execution of their duty can expect to a receive a prison sentence, often one that is substantial," he continued.

"This was a very serious offence and the police officers in question feared for their lives and did so with good reason.

"It was also a serious offence of affray - it was not spontaneous, the level of threat was very high, and you were responsible for a siege lasting over two hours with potentially dangerous weapons aimed at police officers.

"Members of the public were unable to go about their business and officers themselves were forced to draw their own firearms with consequences that could have been extremely serious, and possibly fatal for you had they been required to use their weapons."

He was sentenced to four years of imprisonment on each charge of grave and criminal assault, and was given a three-year sentence for the charge of affray - all of these are to be served concurrently.

Under Article 67 Mental Health Jersey Law 2016, Moon will spend his sentence at Brockfield House, where he is currently receiving treatment, until it is deemed no longer necessary to detain him there.

If his treatment concludes before his four years are finished, he will be taken to prison to carry out the rest of the sentence.

Following sentencing, the Deputy Bailiff said the court hoped that Moon would make the most of his time at Brockfield House.

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