Published: 13:17, 30 November 2018
| Updated: 15:24, 30 November 2018
Two police officers responding to a 999 call came face to face with a man brandishing a weapon while under the influence of drink and drugs.
Gunman David Hilton raised the rifle towards the brave officers as they walked down a narrow lane to his home in Gordon Road, Wincheap, near Canterbury, in August.
Frighteningly, one of the policemen then heard a click, prompting the pair to flee for their lives, a court heard.
Judge Simon James said their reaction was “entirely understandable” and the fear they were made to suffer “unacceptable”.
“Those officers had no way of knowing what your intentions were and it would seem you were also uncertain," he said. "They had no way of knowing if the weapon was real or imitation, loaded or unloaded."
But after hearing that the 52-year-old, who works with the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway Company, had been suffering mental health problems, he decided not to send him to prison.
Hilton, who pleaded guilty to possessing firearms intending to cause fear and possessing ammunition, was handed a two-year jail term suspended for two years.
Judge James said: “Police officers, whose primary role is to ensure public protection, are entitled to look to the courts for protection.
“Day in and day out, officers on the frontline are confronted with dangerous threats and it is unacceptable they should face unnecessary peril.”
Prosecutor Steven Attrige had told Canterbury Crown Court how on August 29, police received a 999 call from Hilton asking if they deal with people with mental health issues, telling them he had “two or three” rifles.
Hilton then claimed he was going to shoot anyone who came to his property.
Mr Attrige added that the only access to his property in Gordon Road was along a three foot wide alleyway.
He said: “The two officers found him sat outside on a bench with a rifle next to him on a table and shouted: 'Hello, it’s the police'.
“At that point Hilton picked up a rifle and one of the officers heard a click and saw Hilton raising and levelling the weapon at them.
'Day in and day out, officers on the frontline are confronted with dangerous threats and it is unacceptable they should be face unnecessary peril' - Judge Simon James
“The officers turned and ran and when they looked back they saw he had placed the rifle on the ground and was walking towards them with his hands raised and was arrested."
Hilton, who had been drinking and had taken cocaine, later apologised for scaring them and said the weapon was not loaded.
Christopher Wray, defending, said Hilton had been treated for mental health issues but had stopped taking his medication and resorted to drink and drugs.
“The 999 call was a cry for help, “ he added.
Hilton began weeping after the judge told him he accepted his remorse was genuine.
Judge James said he was prepared to take a “calculated and justifiable risk” and not jail him immediately.
He also ordered him to receive treatment for his issues and pay £360 prosecution costs.