A FORMER policeman has been given a suspended sentence after his estranged wife reported he had left a rifle in the loft after he moved out of their home.
Stephen McKie, who served with distinction as a police officer, kept a potentially dangerous air rifle without a certificate after it was given to him by a dying relative.
He put the .22 weapon in a loft for safe keeping for nearly 20 years, Teesside Crown Court heard.
McKie, 46, from Hartlepool, also failed to return a canister of CS spray which was in a box of personal items given to him when he retired from the force.
The court heard he had asked police to collect it after he realised it should not have been there, but they failed to do so.
McKie, who is also a school governor, was sentenced to two months in prison, which was suspended for two years.
He was arrested when his estranged wife alerted police to the rifle a couple of days after he moved out of the family home in Ashfield Close last November.
Sharon Elves, prosecuting, said: “It wasn’t working, but it wasn’t disabled.
“The firing pin could have been replaced and then it would work.
“It was a firearm which was of the kind where a certificate was required for its possession.”
The court heard the rifle had been left to him by his father-in-law in 1991 and he forgot about it.
Paul Abrahams, mitigating, said: “It’s a genuine firearm, but it was in a position where it was not loaded and in fact it wasn’t capable of being fired at that time.
“I would submit he is a man of exemplary character.
“The court can be satisfied that he will not re-offend.”
McKie, of Slake Terrace, Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm without authority and possessing a prohibited weapon.
The Judge, Recorder Jeremy Hill-Baker, said: “It’s agreed that when you took possession it was not in working condition and you took no steps to put it into working condition.
“The seriousness of the offence is in that condition it still remained as a weapon which could be used to frighten people if it fell into the wrong hands and it would be capable of being made dangerous again.
“The mistakes you made were in not ensuring these two weapons were handed in to the authorities.”