A man who was found with a shortened pistol and ammunition in his garden shed has walked free from court.
Steven Lownsborough faced an automatic five-year prison term for the offences, but a judge ruled that there were exceptional circumstances and so instead imposed 18 months’ imprisonment suspended for a year.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that Lownsborough had allowed another man to put a safe in the shed but he had no idea what was in it and the prosecution accepted that. Robert Dudley, prosecuting, said that police called at Lownsborough’s home on May 15 last year.
They did not have a search warrant but he allowed them in and said “he had nothing to hide”.
In an unlocked garden shed safe was found, to which access was via a key or code. Lownsborough told them who it belonged to and gave their details.
He said the safe had been there for some time and he had no means of accessing it.
Inside the safe officers found a 2.2 pistol in working condition, 111 hollow pointed bullets designed to expand on impact and 39 bulleted cartridges.
Mr Dudley said that there was no forensic evidence to link the man named by Lownsborough to the items.
The 29-year-old, of Westminster Drive, Leigh, pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited firearm; possessing expanding ammunition and possessing ammunition without a firearms certificate.
Paul Treble, defending, said that it was clear that the defendant had not known what was in the safe.
“He is currently unemployed but has obtained the certification to work in the construction industry.”
Judge Alan Conrad, QC, said: “In the ordinary course of events someone in possession of a firearm and prohibited ammunition faces an immediate sentence of five years.
“That is because the law rightly regards that type of offending as extremely serious.
“The facts of your case take it outside the normal frame work and the prosecution accept you did not know what was inside the safe when you took possession of it which enables me to say there are exceptional circumstances which justify not imposing the normal mandatory sentence.”
As well as the suspended sentence, the judge ordered Lownsborough to carry out 150 hours worth of unpaid work.