Wed, 25 Jul 2018
THE licensee of a Lambourn pub – who was accused of keeping a small arsenal of illegal guns in his cellar – has been cleared of firearms charges.
Oliver Taggart, of The George in the High Street, was facing a minimum, five-year term of imprisonment if found guilty.
He denied the charges all along and was due to stand trial at Reading Crown Court last Monday.
But instead he walked free into the arms of his wife after the prosecution declined to offer any evidence, prompting Judge Johanna Cutts to formally dismiss the charges.
It was the end of a 14-month ordeal for Mr Taggart, his wife Caroline and their children. It began in May 2017 when police found firearms in a box and 57-year-old Mr Taggart was charged with having in his possession at Lambourn three shotguns, two Berettas and one Midland Gun Company firearm, without holding a certificate authorising him to do so under the Firearms Act 1968.
At an earlier hearing at the magistrates’ court it was said by Mr Taggart’s lawyer that his client had no knowledge of the container’s contents and had simply been helping out a friend who found himself in difficult domestic circumstances.
Last Monday that claim was vindicated – but not before the Taggarts had to wait several hours to learn that the case was not going ahead.
Following a lengthy legal discussion, prosecuting barrister Mark Stevens told the court that afternoon: “Having liaised with the reviewing lawyer, the decision has been taken to offer no evidence on all counts.
“This is after recent information the police provided to the reviewing lawyer.”
Judge Cutts then told Mr Taggart: “I don’t think it’s necessary for me to delve any further – I find you not guilty on all counts.”
As he hugged his wife, the couple’s daughter Kayleigh said: “This whole thing has affected the health of them both.”
Mr Taggart said: “We’re still at The George at the moment, but we’ve decided to call it a day there. This has been such a struggle for us all. It’s been very, very hard on Caroline – and myself.”
A recent social media post on behalf of the family states that The George will be under new management from July 30.
The post adds: “It is bittersweet that our time at The George in Lambourn draws to an end.
“We are so proud of the business it has become and would like to thank all of you for helping us to achieve what we set out to do, in creating a village hub that everyone can enjoy.”
The Taggarts will host a leaving party on Saturday, July 28, as “an opportunity to say thank you... and celebrate what have been three-and-a-half brilliant years”.
Before running The George, the couple ran The Malt Shovel in Lambourn.
Mr Taggart, who was also a dealer in showjumpers and three-day eventers, said the family planned to stay in the area and he intends to start his own carriage horse business for special events such as weddings and funerals.
As the Newbury Weekly News went to press last Wednesday, Thames Valley Police and the Crown Prosecution Service had not responded to a request for information as to why the case had been allowed to proceed so far, only to collapse on the day the trial was due to start.