A judge has refused to pass sentence on a man who turned up at court intoxicated by drink.

Paul Winstanley is facing a potential prison sentence of up to five years after admitting firearms offences at a previous hearing at Durham Crown Court.

The charges include possession of a prohibited firearm, for which a minimum term of five years applies in the Sentencing Council guidelines for offenders aged 18 or over, when the offence was committed.

Winstanley’s case was listed for sentence yesterday (Thursday April 11), but when the defendant entered the dock as the case was called on, his counsel, Duncan McReddie, told the court: “He’s a little worse the wear for alcohol and, as this is a difficult sentencing exercise, I’m not happy about proceeding to sentence given his condition.

“He apologises to the court. He’s never turned up at court in this condition before.

“There’s a long-standing addiction and it rears its head when anxiety and stress levels rise, and this is possibly the most stressful thing he has had to face for many months.”

The Northern Echo:

Having read a medical report prepared for the hearing, Judge Jo Kidd told Mr McReddie: “My understanding is that his dealings with alcohol had reduced, but the doctor’s conclusion as to whether that was an accurate picture is unclear.”

Mr McReddie replied: “He has at times refrained and then relented.”

Judge Kidd said empty bottles could be seen on some of the photographic evidence from his home taken by the police when the defendant was arrested.

“He is not fit to be sentenced today, but the question is, when can we fit this case back in for sentence?”

The Northern Echo:

Chris Baker, prosecuting, said there are no outstanding issues between the prosecution and defence sides as to the basis of plea in the case.

Mr McReddie told the judge: “I would say there are exceptional circumstances to enable you to move away from the minimum term.”

Applying for his client to be re-admitted to bail, pending the new date for the sentencing hearing, Mr McReddie said Winstanley had met all bail conditions previously, including reporting to police and always attending court hearings promptly, when required.

“I would invite you to treat this occasion with some charity and, perhaps, with an apology from the defendant.”

Mr McReddie said a neighbour of the defendant has assisted him in attending hearings during the court process.

But Judge Kidd said: “My concern is that the report highlights excessive alcohol use with attempts at self-harm and the circumstances in which the police came to be called in respect of this case.

“It seems to me he’s a particularly vulnerable person and not well enough to take care of himself, and for these reasons, for his own protection, pending the sentencing hearing next week, I will remand him in custody.”

She told Winstanley his case would now be adjourned for sentence on Tuesday (April 16).

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Judge Kidd said he could be produced in court from prison or appear via the video link for the sentencing hearing, which ever suits him and his representatives.

The 46-year-old defendant, of Ullswater Crescent, Crook, is to be sentenced for offences of possessing a firearm and ammunition without a certificate, possessing a shortened shotgun and possessing a prohibited firearm.

All were said to have taken place between December 4, 2022, and December 19, 2023.