A teenager has been urged to take up stamp collecting after his interest in air weapons and firearms almost landed him in custody.

Jack Mossman was arrested after he was spotted trying to sell a converted starting pistol on Facebook.

The 18-year-old had swapped the weapon for a motorbike he was selling before trying to sell it on, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Jenny Haigh, prosecuting, said police were alerted by a member of the public after the teenager posted the gun for sale.

She said the PAK starting pistol was discovered stashed in the defendant’s bedside table along with some ammunition.

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“He was arrested and made full and frank admissions to the police, effectively saying he was not aware that it was a prohibited weapon,” she said.

The court heard how there was no suggestion that the teenager had been responsible for the adaptation of the starter pistol into a weapon capable of firing projectiles.

Mossman, of Spencerfield Crescent, Middlesbrough, pleaded guilty to possession a firearm, the converted 9mm blank firing pistol, which had a barrel less than 30 centimetres, following the raid on his home on May 6 this year.

Emma Williams, in mitigation, described her client as naïve and immature but had still turned up to court knowing he was facing three-years in custody.

She added: “He has learnt his lesson. He knew exactly what the minimum prison term was and knew that the court would have to find exceptional circumstances to avoid that.”

Recorder Tony Hawks sentenced the teenager to 18-months in a young offenders’ institute but suspended it for 18-months.

He said: “You were looking at a starting point of three-years in custody, that’s how seriously firearms offences are taken in this country. To avoid locking you up for three-years, I need to find exceptional circumstances for not doing so.

“I accept you acquired these items as a swap for a motorbike you were selling. I am also prepared to accept that you didn’t know it was a prohibited firearm, otherwise you wouldn’t have been selling it on Facebook.”

Ordering the teenager to attend 35 rehabilitation activity requirement days, the judge added: “If you have got and interest in firearms and air weapons, which you clearly have, I suggest you cultivate a different hobby.

“I suggest you start collecting stamps, it’s far less dangerous.”

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