A MAN has been sent to prison after police found a sawn-off shotgun... he claimed he bought as an ornament.

Officers attended a home in Mansell Close, Leigh, to arrest 35-year-old Mark Topley on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm to a woman on September 23, last year.

Detectives then searched the home because it had been alleged a hammer had been used in the attack which Topley had been arrested for.

During the search, officers found the sawn-off shotgun in a laundry cupboard wrapped in plastic bags.

Topley of Chaffinch Close, Shoebury, was then arrested and interviewed about the shotgun, but made no comment to police.

Both the shotgun and plastic bag were examined and investigators found Topley’s fingerprints and DNA evidence on the items.

Topley was charged with three firearms offences and admitted all counts when he appeared at Basildon Crown Court for a plea and trial preparation hearing.

No charge was ever brought in relation to the GBH probe.

His barrister Matthew Bone told the court he had bought the gun to keep as an ornament.

The offence of possessing a sawn-off shotgun carries a mandatory minimum of five years - with a maximum of ten years in prison.

Sentencing him at the same court yesterday, Judge John Lodge said: “There is never a legal use for having a sawn-off shotgun.

“They have one use and that is for crime.

“People who keep them encourage their use in crime and a deterrent sentence must be passed. “I take the view that, bearing in mind the nature of the firearm, I am required to go above the minimum sentence and therefore the appropriate starting point is one of seven years.”

Judge Lodge deducted 25 per cent in recognition of Topley’s guilty pleas and handed him a prison sentence of five years and three months.

Topley, who appeared in the dock in a black suit, waved to his family in the public gallery before being taken down to the cells.