A farmer living a “James Bond-type fantasy” has been jailed for illegal possession of a pistol carried on him on nights out with a girlfriend.

John Hare, whose marriage had broken down at the time, told the woman that he had killed people in the past and carried the handgun as secret agents may be watching him.

But the judge who imposed a 66-month sentence on Hare at Newcastle Crown Court described him as carrying out a, “James Bond-type fantasy”, to impress his girlfriend.

The court heard his five-year relationship with the woman ended during a confrontation at his home, in May 2020, when he punched her three times, knocking her to the floor.

He then struck her face, causing a nose bleed and damaged her car wing.

Hare denied charges of assault causing actual bodily harm and criminal damage but was convicted after a trial before magistrates.

Kelly Sherif, prosecuting, told the crown court sentencing hearing that it was during inquiries into the assault and damage that police received information that Hare possessed a firearm.

When confronted he confessed and directed officers to a chicken coop on his farm.

Miss Sherif said it was the defendant’s wife who entered the coop, containing about 30 birds, went behind units, pulled out a brick and dug further to reveal a bread bag containing the weapon, which she dropped at the officers' feet.

It was the .22 pistol, which was in working capacity.

The 53-year-old defendant, of Carr House Farm, Murton, County Durham, admitted possession of a prohibited firearm, which he claimed to have bought on the internet in about 2005 for use shooting at rats.

Read more: County Durham man put recovered stun gun in carrier bag in loft

Thomas Welshman, in mitigation, said although the weapon was in working order his client never used it to threaten anyone.

He said the deterioration of the defendant’s relationship had cause a build up of pressure, as, apart from running the farm, he ran two linked businesses involving reusable energy.

Mr Welshman described Hare, previously respected in the community as an employer of 12 people, as, “a flawed and troubled man”, but said he was not dangerous.

Judge Edward Bindloss quoted from the girlfriend’s statement in which she said Hare would carry the pistol on nights out, claiming he had links to the Secret Service and had killed people in that work.

The judge said: “That was all complete fantasy.

“She says she believed you worked for the Secret Service and that was why you kept the weapon close by.”

Accepting he was not a danger to the public, Judge Bindloss described Hare as, “a fantasist”, spouting, “froth and nonsense” to his girlfriend.

He imposed a five-year sentence for the firearms offence and added six months for the assault.

Hare was also ordered to pay £100 compensation for the damage to the car.