Boy paid £50 to wave gun on BBC show 'spiralled into a life of crime'

Boy who was paid £50 to wave a gun on BBC Panorama show ‘spiralled into a life of crime’ after his father recognised him and reported him to police – as family claims he was ‘set up’

  • Stephen Hooton, now 29, was 16 when he appeared on show with a gun in 2008 
  • He showed arms off for camera on BBC Panorama documentary Young Gunmen  
  • Last month, he was jailed for five years and two months for a series of burglaries  

A boy, who was paid £50 to wave a gun on BBC Panorama show, ‘spiralled into a life of crime’ after his father recognised him and reported him to police – as family claims he was ‘set up’.  

Stephen Hooton, now 29, was 16 when he obtained guns and ammunition as part of the BBC Panorama documentary Young Gunmen in Liverpool in 2008. 

In the documentary, Hooton waved around a shotgun and a hand gun, and dismantled a pistol to show ammunition, according to The Sunday Times. 

A boy, who was paid £50 to wave a gun on BBC Panorama show, ‘spiralled into a life of crime’ after his father recognised him and reported him to police – as family claims he was ‘set up’

A friend of Hooton’s said that the father-of-two was ‘set up’ because the guns weren’t his, and added that ‘everything changed’ in his life after he went to prison. 

Hooton’s father recognised him on the programme, despite his identity being hidden by a balaclava, and reported him to the police. 

He was jailed in 2009 for possession of firearms and the court heard evidence that the guns didn’t belong to him, and he was asked to do it by a fixer for the show.

The fixer, a leading member of the Marsh gang, referred to as Male C during the court case, was paid to arrange interviews for the show, and allegedly gave him money to obtain weapons and show them off.   

Jason Smith, defending, said during the trial in 2009: ‘The defence contention is not that he was paid directly by the Panorama film producers but he was paid money by an intermediary who had been paid money to fix it on their behalf.

‘He was provided the firearms to display on camera, although he was associated with the gang and they were firearms owned by the gangs, he was given them to flaunt on camera.’

Mr Smith added: ‘After the filming, he took the guns back to where he had collected them and was told “nice one” by Male C and was given £50.’    

There is no evidence the BBC knew of the payments, but Hooton’s family say more could have been done by producers to prevent the exchange. 

Stephen Hooton, now 29, was 16 when he obtained guns and ammunition as part of the BBC Panorama documentary Young Gunmen in Liverpool in 2008

Hooton’s mother Linda said offering a child money to get guns was ‘wrong’ and ‘disgusting’, adding that taking part in the documentary and going to prison ‘sent him off the rails’.  

Bernard Hogan-Howe, the chief constable of Merseyside police, ordered an investigation into the ‘cash for guns’ scandal linked to the programme.  

Last month, Hooton was jailed for five years and two months at Liverpool Crown Court for his role in a series of burglaries. 

The gang committed 162 burglaries and thefts between January 2019 and February 2020 and stole luxury cars worth more than £2.6million. 

The gang targeted properties in what was described as ‘a sophisticated operation’, according to the BBC. 

Houses across the North-West were entered at night and cars and other luxury items were stolen. 

A spokesperson for the BBC said: ‘We have always said that the BBC did not make any payments to the gunman. 

‘The programme fully complied with the BBC’s editorial guidelines. The BBC and its journalists co-operated fully with Merseyside Police in connection with this matter.’

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