A man has been jailed for almost seven years after being caught with a sawn off shotgun at a flat he said he was guarding from drug dealers in Hove.
Joseph Nti was seen by police dumping a bag full of shotgun cartridges from the balcony of the first floor flat as armed officers knocked on the front door on 22 July last year.
Once the officers were inside, the shotgun itself was found in the Ellen Street Road flat’s bedroom.
Prosecuting, Ryan Richter said: “The defendant confirmed he had been staying at the flat at the request of the tenant, to move people out who had been dealing drugs there.
“He was planning to go back to London.
“He said the gun was an antique, it’s like those samurai swords you can put it up on your wall, there’s no law saying you can’t have an antique.”
The gun was taken away and examined by a specialist, who found that although it was technically not working, it could be easily fixed so it could fire ammunition using just a metal pin and tape.
Defending, Laura Plant said Nti had never intended to use the gun, and had not considered whether it would be used by anyone else for criminal purposes.
She said her client, who she had represented since 2014, was a stepfather to two children and a father to one, and when he was not using Class A drugs, was “polite, intelligent and articulate.”
She said: “When he overcomes drugs, he’s a good, hardworking member of society.
“This has been far and away the worst offence he has committed. It was at a time he was feeling very low and he asked the court to revoke his bail.
“He knows perfectly well he can’t go on like this.”
The court heard Nti has 18 convictions for 48 different offences, including dealing class A drugs, assaults and a series of high value snatch thefts.
For the last – a spree in which he stole jewellery worth an estimated £160,000 by posing as a customer spending a big inheritance from shops across the south of England – he was sentenced to 40 months in prison in 2014.
Sentencing at Lewes Crown Court on Monday, Judge Stephen Mooney said: “I do suspect that a man such as yourself in different circumstances would be leading a different life.
“I have absolutely no doubt that when you are not in the grip of an addiction you are leading a productive life.
“Unfortunately for you the police did manage to intercept you before you were able to give the gun back to the person to whom you were ultimately going to return it for future use.
“You were seen by police disposing the shells over the edge of the balcony.
“Sawn off shotguns only have one useful application – to be used in crime.
“I can noly come to the conclusion that you intended that the shotgun would go back to a person and you were reckless as to how it would be used.
There was the proximity of the ammunition which could be used. It wouldn’t have taken anything at all for it to be capable to be used.”
For possession of the gun, Nti was given 81 months, or six years and nine months, with another five years for possession of the ammunition to run concurrently.
Judge Mooney added: “You have quite a lot of life left in you. You are capable of change and I urge you do so.”