AN EX-ARMY paratrooper was spared jail after telling a judge he bought nine banned weapons to use in private security work in Afghanistan.

Robert Powell, of Lake Road, Oxford, admitted three counts of purchasing prohibited weapons on September 25 last year, when a package he ordered from Germany was seized by the UK Border Agency.

Sarita Basra, prosecuting, said customs officials found two dragon pepper sprays and two stun guns, which the 46-year-old had bought on the internet.

The barrister told Judge Mary Jane Mowat police searched Powell’s home on October 1 and found a small black spray can and four CS canisters.

Following this discovery he also pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing banned weapons.

Miss Basra added that when arrested Powell told police he didn’t realise such weapons were illegal in the UK. He said: “I’ve got all sorts of gadgets, I love that stuff.”

Sarah Holland, defending, said her client had spent 10 years in the Army.

She said: “He made a decision to buy the items with the intention of finding work with the security services in Afghanistan.”

Miss Holland said Powell had a successful career in the Army, serving five tours of duty including Northern Ireland in the height of The Troubles.

Judge Mowat noted that Powell’s time in the Army ended when he “made a fool of himself” and tried to doctor records after getting into a fight with a fellow soldier. But she told him that he still had excellent references, despite being dishonourably discharged.Judge Mowat said it was an “unprecedented” excuse but one which she believed after looking at Powell’s service record.

She said: “The idiocy of not realising he couldn’t purchase these weapons legally in the UK is almost beyond belief, but on the other hand I actually believe it.”

Judge Mowat sentenced him to two years in prison, suspended for two years, with 200 hours of unpaid work and a £100 victims’ surcharge.