A small-time crook who was caught with a sawn-off shotgun hidden in his home has been jailed for five years.
The judge said that the sentence on Barry Foster,37, was a warning that Parliament intended courts to get tough on such terrifying weapons.
Cleveland Police officers found the sawn-off double-barrel 12-bore when they executed a search warrant at the house he shared with his brother.
The gun was wrapped in a black bin liner and hidden in the bottom drawer of a cooker.
Teesside Crown Court heard Barry Foster told them: “That old shotgun, it’s been there for years”.
He said that he found it in the bathroom when they moved into the house a year before and he thought it was an antique.
Judge Shaun Morris rejected a defence plea not to impose the statutory five year jail sentence after Foster, of Oxford Road, Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a firearm.
He told Barry Foster: “This was the most terrifying of weapons, a sawn-off shotgun.. It was a weapon of choice for a robbery, for anybody who wants to terrify the public.
“It was not in working order, that does not matter. It’s quite easy to get a shotgun back in working order again.
“The stock was shortened, the barrels were shortened, the whole thing was blackened. The point is that to a bank teller or a security van guard it would just strike terror into their hearts.”
The judge added: “It was not in your league but you might know people like that."
He added: “I have been asked to consider special circumstances.
“Criminals who are in possession of this kind of terrifying weapon have to understand that Parliament intended the court to get tough.”
Prosecutor Rachel Masters said that Foster, who had 87 convictions for 192 offences mainly for shoplifting, claimed in interview after the find on March 11 that he had no experience with guns, he had never fired one and he did not have a firearms licence.
He said that after he found it he wrapped it up again and he put it in the drawer.
He was originally jointly charged with his brother but the case against Anthony Foster was later dropped.
Stephen Constantine, defending, said that the house in Hartlepool looked as if the police had raided it when the brothers got the tenancy in January last year.
He said that Barry Foster was a prolific shoplifter but with no convictions for assault, and his brother had 51 convictions for 105 offences including firing an air rifle at a man .
Mr Constantine said that there was no evidence what Barry Foster intended to do with the gun, and he urged the judge to find that there were special circumstances why the statutory five year jail sentence should not be imposed.
Foster, of Oxford Road, Hartlepool, was jailed for five years after he pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a firearm.