An Isle of Wight ferry worker from Southampton, who was caught with an air pistol when stopped for running a red light, told police he had the weapon to shoot rats.

Liam Bull, who was working for Red Funnel at the time of his arrest, was pulled over on Bitterne Road West in Southampton, after police spotted him running a red light.

A court heard how Hampshire and Constabulary officers opened the door of the red Land Rover Discovery and “immediately” saw the imitation gun in the glovebox, prompting them to arrest the 26-year-old.

At a sentencing hearing on Friday (February 16), barrister Rebecca Fairburn said her client had the weapon to shoot rats and told the court he was trying to set up a business to control vermin on farmland.

Ms Fairburn said: “He had obtained this weapon and he was going to ask a friend whether it had sufficient power to kill rats.”

She added Bull normally kept it in a toolbox but, having helped a friend jump start a car, had taken it out and put it in the glove box.

Bull had forgotten it was there, said Ms Fairburn, adding her client has ADHD and autism and is “forever misplacing things”.

Prosecutor Robert Harding said Bull was also caught with a locking knife at the time the gun was seized.

During interview, the Howard Close, Southampton, resident told police he bought the blade in Lymington and was told it was legal. He later pleaded guilty to possession of an imitation firearm and possession of a bladed article in a public place.

Bull has 12 previous convictions for 20 offences, including two counts of possessing an offensive weapon, and one of possessing an imitation firearm, violence and dishonesty.

Ms Fairburn said: “A large proportion of his convictions were committed as a juvenile. He has not had a good start in life.

“He is a child that grew up in the care system.

“The weapon he had was an air pistol. He had it for the purpose of trying to better himself.

“He says he was trying to make better choices in life. Having put the gun back in the glove box, he had forgotten it was there,” court was told.

Bull also admitted breaching a community order after he failed to complete an unpaid work requirement.

He was jailed for eight months, and an order was made for the deprivation of the gun and knife.

Judge Christopher Parker told Bull: “You need some help, and you need to help yourself. You need to organise yourself and not get in trouble.

“If you offend again you are going to have a much much longer time.

“Nobody wants to see a young person locked up, but you are bringing it on yourself.”

Two other people were searched and released, Mr Harding said.