AN ANGRY angler threatened a group of teenagers with an air rifle after they began messing around as he was trying to fish on a canal bank.
A court heard the youngsters fled in terror after Russel Cook pulled out the weapon when they ignored his warnings about throwing stones.
Cook, 34, was given a suspended prison sentence over the incident which took place on April 21 this year beside the Leeds Liverpool canal at Armley.
Charles Blatchford, prosecuting, said three youngsters, all aged 14, were initially fishing on the canal bank, close to where Cook was with two of his friends.
Mr Blatchford said the two groups had initially been friendly towards each other and the group of men asked the teenagers if they had managed to catch any fish. The prosecutor said they youngsters stopped fishing later in the afternoon and began “messing about”.
They began throwing stones and Cook said to them: “If any of them hit me I have got a better shot then you and you will know about it.”
The youngsters continued to throw stones and Cook warned them for a second time. Moments later one of the teenagers saw that Cook was holding a rifle. One of them feared the weapon was being aimed at him and hid behind a tree. The other two ran up a banking and managed to stop two police officers who were passing.
Cook was walking from some undergrowth when the officers approached him and asked him if he had a weapon. Cook told one of the officers: “I don’t know what you are talking about mate.”
The officers then followed footprints which Cook had left behind in the mud. It led them behind a stone wall where they found the air rifle in a black case along with pellets.
Cook, also known as Russel Sagar, was arrested and admitted being in possession of the weapon. He pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
Sajid Majid, mitigating, said Cook, of Waincliffe Place, Beeston, admitted the offence at an early opportunity. He said Cook had not fired the weapon and had no intention to cause injury.
He was given a three month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to do 250 hours’ unpaid work.
Recorder Reid said: “This sort of behaviour in public merits a sentence of imprisonment. Had there been any suggestion that you had fired this weapon or had hit them it would have been an immediate prison sentence.”