A SOUTHAMPTON woman caught with a Taser disguised as an iPhone claimed she was using the device as a torch.

Care worker Debbie Nutbeen said she used the disguised stun-gun as a flashlight after her mobile phone had broken.

The 43-year-old said she needed a torch to access a dark wooded area to save up to 20 minutes during her walk between her home and work.

The device was discovered in her bedroom when police searched the house as part of another unrelated investigation.

On Tuesday, at Southampton Crown Court, a judge described her actions as "incredibly stupid".

But he spared her from an immediate custodial sentence and urged her to learn from the incident.

The court heard how police found the device in Nutbeen's home, in Tickleford Drive, Southampton, on September 6 last year.

Prosecutor Tim Dracass told the court the device was found in a pink bag near to her bed.

He said when police discovered the item, Nutbeen volunteered to them that it was a Taser.

Mr Dracass said Nutbeen told the police that the item had been given to her and that she was told it was a stun-weapon.

He said: "She said she had used it as a flash light as she walks through woods to and from work and her phone was broken at the time.

"When police inspected the device the found the item could be used as a torch, but if you flicked a switch it could be used as an electric stun-gun."

Mr Dracass added that the weapon was "non-lethal" but could cause "severe pain" to those it was used against.

In mitigation, Ellie Fargin said Nutbeen had only used the device as a torch for a period of around three weeks.

She said her client had "never tried to switch it to a Taser".

Ms Fargin added that an immediate custodial sentence would impact on Nutbeen's grandchild and her return to work at a care home.

In sentencing Nutbeen, who pleaded guilty to possession of prohibited weapon, Judge Gary Burrell QC said: "You have been incredibly stupid. It is surprising because you are an intelligent lady.

"You are not a criminal and you well regarded by the friends and people you work with.

"This offence has crossed the custody threshold but I'm going to suspend your sentence."

Judge Burrell gave Nutbeen a 12 month sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered her to complete 25 days of the Women's Programme.