Sunderland woman caught with ‘Nato’ CS gas after reports of knife raider

Sunderland Magistrates' Court
Sunderland Magistrates' Court

A woman has been spared jail after tear gas was found by police investigating reports of knife-wielding man at her home.

Joanne Richardson, 44, was out when police arrived at her flat in Sunderland on February 5, city magistrates heard.

She genuinely thought it was okay to have it because it can be bought on the internet

Probation report

Officers, had been called after reports of a knifeman, but found the property empty with the door forced open.

Rehana Haque, prosecuting, said: “Police attended East Vines after a report of a male with a knife and found the front door had been forced open.

“Concerned that there may be somebody inside, they entered the property but found the flat empty.”

Mrs Haque said police saw canister on top of the intercom box with the words ‘Nato’ CS gas on it. It contained a CS noxious substance.”

Richardson was interviewed and confirmed the canister was hers, saying she “got it from a mate”.

She said she was going to do nothing with it and that she thought it was legal because it is available online.

Richardson, of East Vines, Sunderland, had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to possessing a weapon for the discharge of a noxious liquid, contrary to the Firearms Act 1968.

The court heard Richardson has 46 offences on her record, the last dating back to 2015, for assaulting a police officer.

A probation report read out in court, said: “She genuinely thought it was okay to have it because it can be bought on the internet.

“She knows what it is but she doesn’t know the effects of it.

“She has been out of trouble for two years and says she would have disposed of it had she known.”

The report added that Richardson is out of work due to a long-term illness, that she occasionally uses cannabis, and that she is classed as being of a high risk of re-offending.

Duncan Emmerson, defending, said: “There is no evidence of sinister intent. She was completely ignorant as to what it was.

“It’s not what could be described as a dangerous situation. She wasn’t even there when it was found.”

District Judge Roger Elsey said: “I take account of the fact that you did not appear to put this canister to use, your early guilty plea, and that you were out of the house when police arrived.

“There is no suggestion there was any danger of it being used.

“If any of these matters were different, I would be considering a prison sentence.”

Richardson was sentenced to a 12-month community order with 15 days specified activity.

She was also orered to pay a £100 fine, costs of £85 and a surcharge of £85.