A SOUTHAMPTON man who aimed a “firearm” at shop workers has narrowly avoided jail.

Darren Comerford left his victims “scared and shaking”.

The 45-year-old walked into the Londis store in West End High Street on July 25 this year.

He lifted his “gun up and pointed it straight at an employee” who saw “him pull the trigger”.

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It was a BB gun but for a few seconds his victim believed it was real, a court heard.

Comerford of Church Road, Woolston appeared before Southampton Crown Court on Tuesday.

He was charged with the possession of an imitation firearm BB gun, with intent to cause persons to believe that unlawful violence would be used against them. He previously pleaded guilty.

Prosecution barrister, Rob Griffiths told how Comerford had been into the Londis shop to buy two SIM cards and some phone credit the previous day.

He had seemed “extremely drunk” and returned later the same night to say that the phone was not working.

However, despite the issue being resolved the shop owner and an employee were restocking shelves when they heard the doorbell and something bang on July 25.

They then saw Comerford holding a gun.

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He was later arrested and gave a no comment interview.

Comerford has 23 convictions to 46 offences including a firearms offence in 1994.

His last conviction was for failing to provide a specimen for analysis.

The court heard how Comerford has a history of alcohol abuse and drinks every night.

Defending, Jamie Gammon argued there was never any intention to injure anybody.

Judge Gary Burrell QC said during sentencing: “I accept that you have significant mental health problems. But, the fact is you were not taking your medication. As a result, you did this very serious offence.”

Comerford was given a 12-month sentence suspended for two years, and a six month alcohol treatment requirement.