A gunman and his getaway driver who tried to murder a rival by shooting him in the pubic area have been jailed for a total of 37 years.

Stephen Neasham had become embroiled in a simmering feud with Ricky Lee Copping which culminated in him deciding to try to kill him.

After being driven to a back lane by accomplice and father-figure, Eric Smith, Neasham told Mr Copping "this ends tonight", before lifting up a rifle and shooting the unarmed victim.

Jurors found Neasham, 37, and Smith, 65, both of Bewicke Main Caravan Park, in Lamesley, Gateshead, guilty of attempted murder and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life in September, after a trial.

Now Neasham, 37, who has 22 previous convictions, has been sent to prison for 20 years while Smith, who has no previous convictions, got 17 years.

Stephen Neasham

Judge Penny Moreland, at Newcastle Crown Court, told them: "The background appears to be the development of bad blood between you, Neasham, and Ricky Lee Copping at a time when you both lived at Bewicke Main Caravan Park.

"That ill-feeling appears to have continued after Mr Copping moved away and came to involve others related to, or friendly with, both of you."

The judge said trouble broke out on March 21 in Dorset Avenue, Birtley, Gateshead, where Neasham's girlfriend lived, as did friends and relatives of Mr Copping.

The court heard "tensions were running high" and Mr Copping was at the home of his girlfriend's brother with other friends and they were expecting trouble.

Judge Moreland said: "They were right to do so.

"Smith, you drove Neasham there and you, Neasham, got out of the van with that rifle, raised it to shoulder height and were heard to saw 'this ends here' or 'this ends tonight' and discharged the rifle at him from close quarters."

Eric Smith

The bullet travelled through Mr Copping's pubic area and into his left buttock, causing injury to the pubic bone, prostate, bladder and urethra.

It passed close to two main arteries and damage to either would probably have led to death, Judge Moreland said.

She said Neasham was a dangerous offender and extended his licence period by five years and told him he must serve at least two-thirds of the 20 years in custody.

Mr Copping said he went out "alone and unarmed" and wanted to sort things out "man to man" when he was shot.

Giving evidence to jurors during the trial, seething Mr Copping branded Neasham a "knacker", a "p****", said he "is not a man" and repeatedly referred to him as "him" while pointing, saying he couldn't say his name.

Referring to Neasham, he said: "I would've just talked to him and sorted it out, not jumped out of a vehicle or owt like that. But it didn't go like that.

"I would've spoken man to man, it's what you do."

Mr Copping, 26, said that evening, he saw the van coming down the alley and went out.

He told the court: "I was alone and unarmed.

"He jumped out of the van and said 'it ends tonight'.

"He had something like that (gestured as if pointing a rifle) and I thought it was a stick or something.

"I said put that down you daft ****.

"I didn't know what it was. I didn't know if he was trying to frighten me or what. I said put it down."

He continued: "All I heard was a crack. To be honest I thought he missed me.

"He said 'this ends tonight' three or four times. I didn't know what he meant.

"It happened that quick, it didn't even look like a gun. I just heard a crack.

"I thought one of his pals behind me had kicked me or stabbed me because I felt it in my a*** first.

"I spun round first because I thought someone was behind me but nobody was there.

"I said I had been shot. There was blood p****** out of my a***. I was in pain."

Pressed on why he didn't name him straight away, he adds: "I didn't say it because I'm not a f****** grass."

Asked by prosecutor Nick Dry about his stance in not telling the police immediately due to "not being a grass", Mr Copping says: "I know it's ironic being stood here now".

Raising his voice, he adds: "Luckily for him I am stood here now, If it had been a centimetre that way I would not be here."

Addressing Neasham in the dock directly, he adds: "You are lucky I'm here giving evidence, p***k."

Mr Dry said: "Their intention was to kill Ricky Copping, without warning, using that element of surprise to their advantage."

Mr Dry added: "It's the Crown's case the defendants had murder in mind.

"It was the culmination of a simmering feud, with Neasham fanning the flames and appearing intent on bringing matters to a head."

Mr Copping spent four days in hospital after the attack and says he lost his job as a result of it.

The court heard Neasham has post traumatic stress disorder as a result of a serious assault he was subjected to, has an IQ in the 60s and can't read or write.

Christopher Knox, defending, said: "He had a serious injury in 2009 which physically and psychologically damaged him.

"He is not a wicked man who is constantly anti-social."

Tony Cornberg, for Smith, who coughed constantly through the hearing, said he is in poor health and has COPD, depression and heart disease and is wheelchair-bound.

Mr Cornberg said: "He is a man whose symptoms will only get worse.

"One can only imagine what the last few months have been like in a cell for 23 hours a day.

"He served his country and had a traumatic experience in the army.

"He presents as a fairly meek man and this is the first brush he has ever had with the courts."