A MECHANIC caught with a vintage gun he used to play cowboys and Indians with as a child has avoided a prison sentence.
Richard Sandison, 51, was convinced the 125-year-old antique he inherited from his grandfather, and played with as a child, could not be fired.
However, that did not stop police officers from arresting him for illegal possession of a firearm when they visited his home on June 15, 2011, on an unrelated matter.
At the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday, Sandison, of Uphall Station, West Lothian, had his sentence deferred by judge Lady Scott, who said the minimum jail sentence would be “arbitrary and disproportionate” to his conduct.
She deferred sentence until later this month to allow for a background report to be prepared on alternatives to custody.
Possession of an prohibited weapon carries a minimum prison term of five years unless a court rules that exceptional circumstances are involved.
The weapon – which was found to work – was seized by Lothian and Borders Police officers during a visit to Sandison’s former home on Meadowpark Road, Bathgate, in 2011 on an unrelated matter.
Sandison said he had been given the weapon as a schoolboy by his grandfather, who was a decorated First World War veteran.
He kept the memento along with his grandparent’s bayonet and service medals.
Sandison claimed that in later years the gun and bayonet had been kept on open display on top of a chest of drawers in a study at home.
Reminiscing, he told the court: “My uncle said the pistol had been deactivated and knew that someone my age would probably enjoy something like that.
“I played with it, as any boy would I suppose – cowboys and Indians with my friends.”
Sandison said he had some knowledge of firearms, having owned a shotgun for which he had a licence.
He said he was “stunned” at being told a firearms expert had established the Belgian-made Bulldog revolver – while in poor external condition and with a faulty trigger mechanism – could be fired by striking the rear of the uncocked hammer.
“I understood a working handgun, capable of firing, was illegal,” Sandison said. “But as far as I was concerned there was no way that pistol could be fired . . . I now feel absolutely foolish.”
The offender told the court his only previous brush with the law had been a speeding fine.