ARMED police sealed off a former pit village this week after a beat bobby was shot in the face with an air gun.

PC Lee Jackson was driving a patrol car through Dipton, near Stanley, on Tuesday at 11.10am, when he was hit by the pellet.

PC Jackson, 32, who is based at Stanley police station, was on routine patrol with a fellow officer, who has not been named.

As the car travelled down St John's Terrace in Dipton, the gunman fired from the window of a house. The pellet came through PC Jackson's open window on the driver's side and hit the right side of his face, becoming lodged in his jaw.

Paramedics took him by ambulance to Durham's University Hospital, where he was treated and released.

A police spokesman said PC Jackson, who joined the force in 2000, was in some pain, but his condition was comfortable. He was due to be treated by a plastic surgeon on Wednesday.

Acting Supt Dave Hogg, of Durham police north area command, said PC Jackson could easily have been more seriously hurt.

"While PC Jackson suffered a very nasty injury to his face, the pellet could have gone anywhere, as it struck what was obviously a moving target.

"The dangers of people misusing high-powered air weapons have been well publicised, and this incident shows once again how potentially lethal such devices can be," he said

A constable based in Consett was first on the scene and arrested a 22-year-old Dipton man on suspicion of assault and possession of an air weapon with intent to endanger life.

At the time the Advertiser went to press he was still being questioned at Consett police station.

Because it was initially logged as a firearms incident, the Armed Response Unit was called in and sealed off the street as a precaution.

An air rifle was recovered from a house nearby shortly after the shooting. The road, which is the main route through the village, was re-opened at around 1pm.

A specialist search team moved in to carry out a detailed examination of the house where the weapon was found at around 5pm.