A FATHER and son who were caught with a vintage Smith and Wesson pistol and stored it in a Tranmere storage unit have been sent to prison for a total of three years.

Philip Williams hid the 100-year-old weapon in a lock-up in Oakenholt, Flintshire, Wales and claimed he forgotten about it after unearthing it in a crate he was left to look after by an unknown farm worker.

But Mold Crown Court heard he moved the gun around to another storage unit in Tranmere and painted the handle to prevent it from rusting.

Meanwhile his son, Daniel Williams, posed for a selfie holding the gun on one of the two occasions he came into contact with it.

Possession of a firearm carries a minimum sentence of five years imprisonment, but the Judge Niclas Parry heard arguments for exceptional circumstances in both cases and reduced the men’s jail terms.

He jailed Philip Williams, 64, for two years while Daniel Williams, 34, received a one-year custodial sentence.

He told the pair: “It must be understood that the rationale and reason for what appears to be harsh sentences is due to the need to deter gun culture and the use of guns.”

Williams Snr said he did not own the Smith and Wesson and it fell into his arms after he agreed to look after some crates for a man he knew only as “Patrick” who worked at a farm in Bodfari where he was living at the time.

He claimed it was only after when he learnt that the man had died while on holiday when he discovered the weapon buried in one of the crates given to him by Patrick.

But instead of handing it over to the police, he kept it for two-and-a-half years, storing it in a lock-up in Tranmere before then moving it to the unit at Oakenholt, police paid a visit on March 10 last year.

Barrister Michael Whitty, prosecuting, said police executed a search warrant at a unit at Pandy Garage after receiving information and found the 0.22 calibre gun wrapped in a tea towel hidden under the wheel arch of a caravan.

They seized 820 rounds of ammunition some of which was found on the roof of a toilet at the lock-up.

After Daniel Williams was arrested, images were found on his mobile phone including the selfie of the defendant which was taken in September 2015 soon after the gun came into his father’s possession.

Phil Williams, of Tan Y Felin, Greenfield, pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited firearm and possessing ammunition without a certificate.

Daniel Williams, of Wern Ucha, Bagillt, admitted one charge of possessing a prohibited firearm.

In making his case for exceptional circumstances, Phil Williams said he came across the gun while he was moving the farm worker’s crate and he had expected the deceased man’s relatives to contact him for the items.

Experts who analysed the Smith and Wesson said it was in working order and was capable of discharging some of the ammunition recovered.

But Williams Snr said: “It was my impression that it didn’t fire. I was under the impression that it was a starting pistol.”

When asked to explain why he had the gun in his possession for so long Williams said he did not want to take a chance of someone coming over from Ireland who was connected to “Patrick”.

He said he was the only person who knew the gun was under the caravan.

His counsel, Robin Boag, said: “There was no evidence that any use was being made of the gun.”

Defence barrister Sion Ap Mihangel said Williams Jnr had limited possession of the gun and was never in possession of any ammunition.

The court was told Williams Snr suffered from a spinal disease and was also the legal guardian of his 11-year-old granddaughter who had lived with him for most of her life.

Mr Boag asked the judge to consider the hardship his granddaughter would endure if her grandfather was sent to prison.

But Judge Parry said Philip Williams’ evidence was not consistent and he rejected the idea that he had been given the gun to look after on a temporary basis.

He said that Williams Snr had made no effort to ask for the gun to be collected.