POLICE arrested a man after finding him sat in a car at a beauty spot with a large knife and extendable baton.

Bolton Crown Court heard how it was the third time Terence Steward had been caught with knives but he escaped jail after Judge Graeme Smith heard how he was suffering from mental illness at the time and the other offences were committed more than 15 years ago.

Colin Buckle, prosecuting, told how, on June 29 last year 50-year-old Steward was stopped by officers on St Helens Road, Leigh.

“The officers were cautious because there had been some suggestion of possession of a firearm,” said Mr Buckle.

Steward was handcuffed and admitted he had a ball bearing air weapon and pellets on him.

After being taken to the police station he was released but failed to return for questioning on September 29.

But Mr Buckle said, seven days later, at 2.30am on October 6, police were patrolling the car park at Pennington Flash when they came across Steward sat in a Fiesta.

“They found the defendant alone. There was a smell of cannabis and the defendant offered the fact that he had a knife and also a police baton,” said Mr Buckle, who added that Steward also had no insurance for the vehicle.

“He said that the baton he had bought from a friend earlier that day and he had been using the knife for jobs around the house and forgotten it was there.”

Steward, of Etherstone Street, Leigh, pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation firearm, cannabis, possessing a knife, described as a hunting weapon with a 20 inch blade, and a baton and an offensive weapon and having no insurance.

Nicholas Ross, defending, told the court that Steward’s father died on Monday from Covid and that, at the time of the offences the defendant, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was unwell.

He added that Steward had claimed to be seeing and receiving messages from aliens and, shortly after his arrest, was sectioned, remaining in hospital for five weeks.

“He is a man who is not bad but was going through a number of mad months,” said Mr Ross, who stressed that, although Steward’s behaviour was “bizarre” he had not produced the weapons or threatened anyone with them.

Judge Smith was told that Steward has a number of previous convictions, including for possessing a knife in 2003 and a knife and an axe in 2005 meaning the latest knife conviction put him in jeopardy of an immediate jail sentence, unless it was deemed unjust.

After hearing that there has been a dramatic improvement in Steward’s mental health, Judge Smith decided that he could be best dealt with in the community.

Steward was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for two years and he will be subject to an 8pm to 7am curfew for three months.

He must also participate in 35 days of rehabilitation activities and the weapons were forfeited.