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Friday, August 13, 1999 Published at 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK


Six months for 'Five Bellies'

Jimmy Gardner arriving at Newcastle Crown Court

Paul Gascoigne's best friend, Jimmy "Five Bellies" Gardner, has been jailed for six months after admitting possessing an air pistol with intent to cause fear of violence.

Judge Guy Whitburn at Newcastle Crown Court told Gardner that the use of firearms was a serious matter which the courts could only address with a custodial sentence.

Gardner, who appeared nervous throughout the hearing, was led away looking shocked.

Gardner, 34, of Bensham, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing after police stopped him in May carrying a black target air pistol.

The court heard that Gardner, who had been drinking, was on his way to confront a group of youths who had taunted him about his weight.

'Out of character'

Geoff Hunter, defending, said: "The gun was never seen by anybody save when it was handed over to the police.

"It wasn't used, it wasn't waved about. Nobody was threatened with it."

Mr Hunter told the judge that the "offence was wholly out of character".

He handed the judge references from Middlesbrough Football Club chief executive Keith Lamb, Torquay United manager Wes Saunders and Virgin Radio boss Chris Evans.

He said Gardner had been a tireless supporter of local charities, particularly those associated with disabled people.

Gascoigne in training

But Judge Whitburn said the use of firearms was prevalent in society and Parliament had taken steps to discourage them.

Gascoigne was at Middlesbrough's County Durham training complex when sentence was passed on his lifelong friend.

A club spokesman added: "It is a private matter for Paul and the club has no comment to make."

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