UPDATE: Pagham siege was a '˜moment of madness'
Today Terry Bridger was sentenced following the 40-hour siege at his home in Pagham last August.
Appearing at Chichester Crown Court, Bridger, 73, was handed three concurrent prison sentences by Judge Christopher Parker.
Pierce Powers, defending, told the court the incident – during which Bridger was threatening to blow his house up and fire a shotgun – was a ‘moment of madness’ and believed to be linked to a change in medication.
The first sentence was six months for two counts of threatening to damage property – namely ‘police lights’ and his own property – and the second was ten months for one count of making use of a firearm with intent to resist arrest.
However, due to the time he has already spent in custody, from his arrest on September 1 to being granted conditional bail at a hearing on February 10, Bridger, of Harbour Road, was deemed to have served the equivalent of 11 months and therefore will not return to prison.
The court heard how officers had attended a neighbouring house in order to make contact and ‘that over five to six hours’ some 100 calls were made by police to Bridger.
During this time Bridger was reported to speak of having a ‘big surprise’ for any officer who tried to enter the property to arrest him and said he would only be coming out ‘in a box’.
Mr Powers said: “If Mr Bridger could turn back time he would.
“He is at a loss to explain what he was thinking that day but he does believe it was a change in his medication that led to some of what took place.”
The six months he spent in Lewes prison following his arrest were described as ‘a very sobering experience’ and led him to ‘understand the impact of his behaviour on his family and friends, the embarrassment and humiliation it has caused’, Mr Powers added.
“Testimonials speak of a decent man, a man who has worked hard all his life and likes the quieter things in life; gardening, restoring a classic car and repairing clocks for friends and neighbours.
“He is a decent member of society.”
Mr Powers stated while the offence was ‘worthy of immediate imprisonment’, he added ‘perhaps in Bridgers case, not today’ due to his terminal lung cancer.
“I ask your honour to suspend his sentence because he is dying.
“If the radiotherapy goes well his prognosis, at most, is about a year to live – which is perhaps the most important piece of information to put before this court.
“It would be a tragedy indeed if a man of 73 years of age with such a positive good character, who has been brought to court for a moment of madness, should possibly die in prison.”
Mr Powers added that the judge faced ‘a stark choice’.
In sentencing, Judge Parker deemed it to be a ‘quite extraordinary and quite unique case’.
He began by stating that Bridger had lived for years in Harbour Road ‘perfectly peacefully’.
Addressing the defendent he said: “It appears you had an argument with your wife and as a result police were called to the address and were told you had a shotgun in the house.
“The police then engaged in a lengthy, complex and as far as they were concerned potentially highly dangerous negotiations to bring you to your senses which seemed to have temporarily left you.”
Judge Parker outlined the threats Bridger made both to officers and property, and that the police were not to know he didn’t have access to the shotgun which was in a locked cupboard throughout and to which Bridger’s wife had the only keys.
He added it was apparent Bridger had also put himself in a position of ‘considerable risk’, ‘either by your own hand in someway or putting yourself in a position where officers would have had to take the most extreme action against you’.
“It is difficult to understand why someone of your age and your clearly exemplary behaviour should have acted as you did.”
Judge Parker outlined that it could have been the medication, ‘the stress of knowing you have a terminal illness’, or ‘perhaps a combination of those things’. He added Bridger’s ‘dire prognosis’ was ‘much for anybody to bear’.
Having explained Bridger’s time in custody meant the total of 22 months prison sentence had already been served, judge Parker stated he would be subject to ‘post-sentence supervision for 12 months’ and acknowledged this could be ‘much of the remainder of your life’.
A deprivation order relating to ownership of firearms was also made during proceedings and met with no opposition.
Speaking after the sentencing chief inspector Jo Banks said: “I’m pleased to say that the long and complex negotiations between our officers and Mr Bridger ended peacefully and safely last summer.
“I think that today’s sentencing was fair and reflects the seriousness of the situation and the impact on the community in Pagham.”