A Southampton man 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 was pulled over on Bitterne Road West in Southampton after police spotted him running a red light in a red Land Rover Discovery.

A court heard how officers opened the door and “immediately” saw the imitation gun in the glovebox, prompting them to arrest the 26-year-old.

But at his sentencing hearing last Friday, his barrister Rebecca Fairburn said he had the weapon to shoot rats. She said he was trying to set up a business to control vermin on farmland.

She told the court: “He had obtained this weapon, and he was going to ask a friend whether it had sufficient power to kill rats.”

Ms Fairburn added that he 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.

READ MORE: Hedge End athletics coach filmed girl with hidden camera

She said he had then forgotten it was there, adding that he has ADHD and autism and is “forever misplacing things”.

But prosecutor Robert Harding said he was also caught with a locking knife at the time the gun was seized.

Upon being interviewed, Bull, of Howard Close, Southampton, told police that 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.

Mr Harding said Bull had been travelling with two others at the time of the offences but these were searched and released.

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

READ MORE: New Forest District Council worker gave out dodgy contracts

But his barrister said: “A large proportion of his convictions were committed as a juvenile”, adding: “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 he was 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.”

Bull was working fulltime for Red Funnel at the time of the offence.

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 him: “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.”