A MAN who brandished an imitation firearm at sports club officials has been jailed for 18 months.
Peter Quinn had gone to Horden Rugby Club to meet a relation when he tried to step in to a fight involving his nephew and a friend outside the bar in the early hours of the morning.
The 31-year-old dad-of-two pulled out the BB gun he had with him as committee member Paul James moved to stop him from intervening.
Mr James, an ex- solider who had been manning the doors after a game earlier in the day, later told police he feared the gun was a real firearm, with fellow member Luke Watson also witnessing the incident.
Quinn had denied the charge of possession of an imitation fire arm with intent to cause fear of violence and was found guilty after a trial at Durham Crown Court.
The jury had been told by the prosecution Quinn had taken the Sig Sauer SP2022 6mm air weapon – which looks like a genuine handgun made by the same company – from the waistband of his trousers.
Jennifer Haigh, prosecuting, told how the weapon and its magazine were found in shrubs near where Quinn was arrested a short time after the confrontation.
His defence had said it had been in the pocket of the coat he had been wearing and he had wrongly picked up the jacket after target practice in his garden earlier.
Ian West, mitigating, said the gun had been pointed towards the ground throughout the incident on October 17 last year.
Mr West said: “He wasn’t looking for trouble. In this case trouble occurred and the purpose of going out was to collect a female relation.
“He couldn’t have possibly known there would be trouble and it was a spontaneous use of this imitation weapon rather than a premeditated use.”
He asked the court suspend any custodial sentence, suggesting community work would be of benefit to society, branding the incident a “stupid” act.
He said Quinn, of Nelson Close, Horden, was in a steady relationship with his girlfriend and had a job with Fastflow.
Passing his sentence of 18 months, Judge Christopher Prince said: “You must realise that when people pull out imitation weapons they appear to be real.
“In situations such as these armed response police may be called, and it may be an imitation but you should appreciate what harm and fear may follow from a situation such as this.
“You are 31 years of age. You ought to know better.”