A TRAVELLER has appeared in court after being found carrying an air rifle in a Waterlooville park - but has denied the weapon was loaded.
Simon Quilligan, who gave his address as being in Galashiels near the Scottish border, admitted to being in Jubilee Park with an air rifle on Monday July 15.
But he denied it was loaded, after the prosecution told Portsmouth Magistrates' Court that witnesses heard a weapon being fired.
'People say they saw a young person with an air weapon, but that weapon was taken by defendant,' prosecutor Giles Fletcher said.
'Two witnesses and a police officer hear the sound of the weapon being fired - but the defendant does not admit to firing it.'
Angie Parkins, for Quilligan, said he was pleading guilty to holding an unloaded weapon.
She said: 'The basis of the plea is that is it not loaded.
'There would have been no shooting sound.
'When the air rifle is cracked open, it may sound like a shot.'
During the brief fifteen minute trial, the magistrates said there was a 'fundamental difference' in sentencing dependent on whether the air rifle was loaded or unloaded, with this difference warranting a hearing to determine the truth.
When told by magistrates this hearing may be happen later in the year, Quilligan said he 'would prefer soon rather than later' in terms of a date.
The magistrates told Quilligan that the trial to establish the facts of the case would take place regardless of his attendance, after the defendant said he had planned to go to Brighton.
The thirty-six-year-old was released on unconditional bail, with the date of the hearing set for Friday October 4 at Portsmouth Magistrates Court.
The sentence for carrying an unloaded air weapon ranges from a fine to a community order involving unpaid work, a curfew, or a ban from visiting specified areas.
Carrying an unloaded air weapon can lead to a 26 week custodial sentence.
The case comes as travellers have set up on recreation grounds in Waterlooville, Bedhampton, and Havant over the last month.