An accountant has been told to expect a jail sentence after he admitted having an arsenal of blank-firing pistols and 700 rounds of live ammunition at a house in Winkleigh.

Michael Ward also traded in illegal weapons with fellow weapons enthusiasts and was caught after a parcel containing an illegal 9mm pistol was intercepted at an airport while being sent by a courier company.

Ward was living in Queen Street, Winkleigh when his home was raided by police in August 8 and 13 starter pistols and three high powered air rifles were seized.

None of them were capable of firing live bullets. They all fired blank, flares, gas, or were air weapons.

Ward had also set up a workshop in which he had made 700 .38 calibre bullets, even though he did not possess any weapon which could use them.

The case came to light when he bought four blank pistols on the internet and sent them to a gun collector called Michael Larkin in Cleveland.

The fourth gun was intercepted by police en route on June 21, 2016 and the homes of both men were raided in August of that year.

Larkin was cautioned and handed over a large collection of imitation and blank-firing pistols which he kept in glass display cases in his home to the police.

Ward, aged 60, who now lives in Chapel Street, Holsworthy, admitted selling a Sig 9 mm blank firing pistol, possessing 17 weapons without a certificate, possession of 700 rounds of ammunition without a certificate, and possession of three air rifles.

Mr Richard Crabb, defending, said none of the weapons were capable of firing live rounds and none of the offences carry the mandatory five year sentence which is applicable to more serious firearms charges.

He said a police weapons expert had examined all the items and concluded that none were capable of being converted into viable, live firing weapons.

He said:”They are described in the technical report as non lethal self defence weapons. They are not imitation firearms. My client is 60 and a man of good character who is a semi retired accountant.”

Judge Timothy Rose told him:”The fact I am granting bail does not indicate the sentence you will receive. All options are open including a significant prison sentence. You need to know that is a particularly likely outcome.”

The judge said he was ‘substantially concerned about the fact that Ward had manufactured 700 rounds of live ammunition.

At an earlier hearing in July, at which Ward represented himself, he said: “I just had a collection of starting guns. This man got in touch and said he was also a collector. He would make payments and I would place the order for him.

“I made the ammunition because in 2011 I was considering buying a rifle and got the equipment to make bullets.”