Gladiator jailed for five years

STEVEN Gardiner was a high-ranking rural fire service member described by one friend as 'the most placid, well-mannered individual I've come across in a long time'.

At the same time he was the president of the Grafton chapter of the Gladiators Motorcycle Club, associating with 'low life', and it was that side of his double life that saw him jailed yesterday.

Gardiner, 48, of Kungala, was sentenced in Coffs Harbour District Court to five years in jail with a non-parole period of three-and-a-half years after being found guilty of possessing five unregistered, prohibited firearms ? four Chinese-made assault rifles and a sawn-off rifle.

The rifles were found during a police search of storage unit Gardiner leased at Hi-

Tech Self Storage, Toormina, on November 20, 2002.

Despite character references from three Kungala friends, Judge Thomas Ducker said it was other associates who had contributed to Gardiner's downfall.

"I do not accept he is a person of good character," Judge Ducker said.

"He seems to be living ? one can hardly say two separate lives ? but some people who he spent time with say he was a good citizen.

"Otherwise he was mixing with low life, such as some of those who gave evidence in the case, in particular Mr (Shane) Fowler."

Judge Ducker said he did not believe there was any evidence to suggest police placed the weapons in the storage unit or were in 'cahoots' with whoever else may have put them there.

Gardiner's legal team said they would file an immediate appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal.

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