A TEENAGER caught carrying a knife in public had been out hunting rabbits, a court was told.

Gareth Howells, of Britten Drive, Malvern, was arrested last month after police found a four-inch bladed hunting knife in his car. The 19-year-old had been out legally hunting rabbits on farmland.

It was 10.20pm when officers investigating an unrelated burglary noticed Howells and a male friend parked in a secluded area in Poolbrook Common, Malvern.

When they approached the pair to ask about the burglary, Howells was quick to admit there was a knife in the car and at Worcester Magistrates Court he pleaded guilty to possession of a bladed article in public.

Leslie Ashton, prosecuting, showed a photograph of the weapon to the court and described it as a four-inch rigid blade hunting knife.

She said: “Gareth Howells later explained that he uses the knife for hunting rabbits. He said he didn’t go home to drop it off because he’d had an argument with his parents and accepted that, as it had been a number of hours since he had been hunting, he had no reason for having the item with him.”

She said Howells had two other blades on him the night he was arrested, but neither broke the law.

Edward Gaynor-Smith, defending, said his client made full and frank admissions to the police.

“He has actually been stopped by the police since and he’s not fallen foul of the law again,” said Mr Gaynor-Smith, who added that unemployed Howells hoped to get a job or start a college course in mechanics later this year.

Magistrates court sentencing guidelines state that anyone carrying a knife in public is at risk of custody and most should expect to be tried at crown court.

Sentencing Howells, deputy district judge Richard Marshall said this case fell “outside the normal guidelines”. He said: “I’ve heard the circumstances and don’t think there’s a dispute as to the background. There are clearly mitigating factors that take this case outside the normal guidelines for carrying knives.

“The guidelines suggest custody is usual for this kind of offence. However, I’ve been able to back down from that because of those mitigating circumstances and be slightly more lenient.”

Howells was made subject to a six-month community order with supervision. He will also pay £80 court costs. The knife is to be destroyed.

l Your Worcester News was the only member of the media to attend this hearing.