A JUDGE told a driver that he only escaped prison '"by the skin of his teeth" after police found an imitation handgun and a zombie knife in his car.

Thomas Wood, aged 20, was informed that only his frankness in admitting he has been delivering drugs and his lack of previous convictions had saved him.

At Bolton Court Antony Longworth, prosecuting, told how police, suspecting a Citroen had been stolen, stopped it on New Church Road, Doffcocker on November 28 last year.

Wood, was was aged 19 at the time, ran off but was caught.

But when police examined the car they found a gas powered pistol wedged between the two front seats and a zombie knife lying on the back seat.

The gun was not loaded but was capable of discharging a ball bearing.

The Honorary Recorder of Bolton, Judge Martin Walsh told Wood: "Bladed articles and items of this sort are commonly presented on the streets of this town, often with terrible results and consequences."

Wood, of Valletts Lane, Smithills, pleaded guilty to possessing the imitation firearm and knife in public.

Nicholas Ross, stressed that Wood had been frank with a probation officer, admitting he had a drug debt and had been driving and delivering drugs in order to pay it off.

He added that Wood also has mental health difficulties.

Wood was sentenced to 21 months in custody, suspended for two years. As part of his sentence he was ordered to undertake 150 hours of unpaid work, participate in 35 days of rehabilitation activities and be electronically tagged with an 8pm to 6am curfew for four months.

Judge Walsh told him: "I want to make this absolutely crystal clear to you.

"You have escaped immediate custody today by the skin of your teeth and that is as a result of the frankness you have shown and because of your lack of antecedent history

"You have been given an opportunity to turn yourself around.

"It is up to you whether you decide to take it."