A MAN caught with two "trophy" bullets in his home walked free from court after his barrister highlighted the case of SAS hero Danny Nightingale.

Police found one of the shells when they visited the house in Stockton to speak to Darren Pattison, 34, Teesside Crown Court heard today (Thursday, December 6).

When officers returned after learning the ammunition was capable of expanding on impact, Pattison showed them another bullet he had kept.

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The court heard that he had had the items for six years or more from a time when he helped his girlfriend's father with pest control on farmland.

Duncan McReddie, mitigating, said of the first bullet found on a hi-fi unit: "It had been standing as a sort of trophy or souvenir in his living room."

Mr McReddie argued that a suspended prison sentence was too harsh, and urged Judge Peter Armstrong to consider a community punishment.

He said: "There is the recent case of Sgt Nightingale who got a suspended sentence for a prohibited firearm and 100 rounds of armour-piercing shells.

"I appreciate there is no parallel to be drawn between Darren Pattison, who has 23 convictions, and Sgt Nightingale given their respective records.

"But here we have inadvertent possession over a number of years, and a defendant who makes matters worse by bringing forward the second round."

Pattison, of Middleton Walk, Stockton, was given a six-month jail term, suspended for two years, with supervision and 100 hours' unpaid work.

Judge Armstrong told him he was being spared immediate prison only because he volunteered the second bullet and had done nothing with them.

He said: "It was foolish to hang onto them, but they were not intended for criminal use. The fact they we sitting on the hi-fi doesn't inspire confidence.

"The danger is that someone gurgles Mr Pattison's house, finds these and they end up in a gun somewhere and end up killing someone."

He told Pattison: "Both bullets were capable of being fired and causing fatal injury and the way you kept them in the house was insecure.

"The danger from that is if they fell into the wrong hands . . . they could have found their way into a weapon and used for criminal purposes."

Hero sniper Sgt Nightingale, 37, was jailed for 18 months at a court martial for illegally possessing a pistol he brought back from duties in Iraq.

Following a high-profile campaign - led by his wife Sally - his sentence was reduced to 12 months and suspended by judges at the Court of Appeal.

Pattison pleaded guilty to possessing expanding ammunition and possessing ammunition without a firearms certificate on August 4.