A YOUTH showing off a imitation weapon to an acquaintance was arrested after gunfire was heard by a town centre club doorman.

Thomas Smyth was seen putting a weapon, later identified as a BB gun, into a bag near Courtneys Bar on Bradshawgate, Bolton.

Bolton Crown Court heard how Smyth had taken the gun with him as he searched for a man he believed had assaulted his friend.

Police were called and 20-year-old Smyth was later arrested at his home.

David Lees, prosecuting, told the court how Smyth had encountered Matthew Downing in Bolton town centre in the early hours of July 2 last year.

Mr Downing was smoking outside Courtneys Bar when Smyth asked him to walk down a side street with him.

"Mr Downing noticed Mr Smyth appeared somewhat on edge. He told him a friend had been assaulted and he was going after the person who had done it," said Mr Lees.

Smyth put his hand inside his jacket and pulled out a gun from a bag.

"He then proceeded to fire the gun twice, not at anybody. Mr Downing describes him pointing at a church some distance away," said Mr Lees.

Smyth put the gun back in the bag and walked towards the bar, asking Mr Downing to order him a taxi.

Mr Lees said Mr Downing was not afraid as he recognised the weapon as a BB gun, but the incident had also been spotted by a doorman. As the shots were fired a woman was seen running away, covering her ears.

The doorman heard the noise and Smyth, realising he had been seen putting the gun away, went up to him and told him not to tell anybody.

Police found two BB guns at Smyth's home, which have now been confiscated and destroyed.

Smyth, of Bentley Street, Bolton, pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with the intent to cause fear of violence.

The court heard that he has no previous convictions.

Michael Johnson, defending, described Smythe as "immature" and "idiotic".

"He is worried about the shame and distress his stupid conduct may visit upon his parents, who have done absolutely nothing wrong," he said.

"In reality he is not a bad person, he's done something utterly senseless. He probably wasn't thinking at all that night."

Judge Timothy Stead stated that the offence was serious but Smyth had not waved the weapons around in the club or street, the defendant had not been in trouble before and he regarded it as an "exceptional case".

He added: "I think this offence was borne out of immaturity and possibly the effects of drink."

Smyth was sentenced to a community order for 12 months with a 90 day, 8pm to 5am, electronically tagged curfew. He must also participate in 20 days of rehabilitation activities and pay £250 towards prosecution costs.