A BUDDING fitness instructor narrowly missed being sent to prison after being discovered by police with two guns in a bedroom of a Barnstaple hotel and pub.
Lee Smith, 32, of Meddon Street, Bideford, admitted possessing an air rifle and air pistol at the Wrey Arms in Sticklepath on July 7.
Smith is prohibited from owning or possessing firearms for life as he was served a prison sentence longer than three years.
A concerned member of the public called the police having seen the guns being taken into the pub.
Lynsey Baker, for the prosecution, said police then burst into the room where Smith was with his partner and where the guns were visible.
She said: “He explained to the officers the guns belonged to a friend and he said he was just looking after them.
“He said he thought he had been banned for five years not for life.”
The police then made contact with Smith’s friend who confirmed he was the owner of the guns not Smith and the firearms were returned to him.
Tony Dart, for the defence, said the pistol was in pieces and the air rifle was unloaded.
He added: “My client did not touch them, his friend had simply dropped them off to him to look after while he was at work.
“The friend was then due to go lamping with the guns after work. My client was just the custodian of them.”
Smith also admitted a third offence of stealing £30 worth of food from the Co-op in Bideford on August 1.
Magistrates deliberated how to sentence the firearms offence for some time and confirmed they believed it breached the custody threshold.
Magistrate Michael Buckley said they had decided to suspend the prison sentence for two years.
He said: “We are sentencing you to six months for each offence running consecutively and suspended for two years.
“We are also sentencing you to a six month curfew. I must warn this was a very serious offence.
“We are going to order no separate penalty for the theft.”
Smith was also told to pay a £80 victim surcharge.