Sunderland man caught with pepper spay disguised as lipstick container
A driver who was caught with an illegal weapon disguised as a lipstick container in his car has been put behind bars.
Police seized a pepper stray, that looked like a cosmetic, when Cameron Healer was pulled over in Murton, County Durham, in the early hours April 1 last year.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the weapon had been left in the vehicle by a passenger, who Healer had given a lift to around half an hour earlier.
He said he had not realised the illegal object had been left behind until the passenger had got out.
Healer, 21, of Broadsheath Terrace, Sunderland, admitted possessing a disguised weapon and faced a five year minimum prison sentence.
Judge Edward Bindloss said Healer's case was "exceptional" enough to avoid the minimum term but sentenced him to two years behind bars.
The judge told him: "In the car was a lipstick container, in the lipstick container was pepper spray and because of the nature of the spray and the fact it was disguised as a lipstick container, that is a prohibited weapon."
Judge Bindloss added: "You advised the officer this had been left in your car by a passenger, who had been in the vehicle about 30 minutes earlier and you had given a lift to.
"He had shown you the item but you had not realised he had left it in the car until he got out.
"The prosecution don't challenge that basis, therefore I must sentence you upon it."
The court heard Healer, who has previous convictions for driving offences but none for violence or weapons, has a job, a stable relationship and a baby.
Judge Bindloss said he accepted Healer "had not intention" to use the weapon and that the background of the case made it "exceptional" enough to avoid thefive-year term.
But the judge added: "Offences of this kind require deterrent sentences.
"In my judgement it is so serious only an immediate custodial sentence can be justified."
Vic Laffey, defending, said Healer's pre-sentence report from the probation service described him in "glowing terms" and he has "turned his life around" since the offence, which was 18 months ago.