A 57-year-old man bombarded his probation officer with text messages, in which he talked about firearms and made reference to cop killer Raoul Moat.

Blackburn magistrates heard David Stratton had a previous conviction involving possession of an imitation gun and the probation officer was scared of what he might be capable of.

Stratton, of Barrowford Road, Colne, pleaded guilty to harassing Natalia Atkinson.

He was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison suspended for two years and made subject to a community order with a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement and six months alcohol treatment requirement. He was ordered to pay £250 compensation and £85 costs.

Parveen Akhtar, prosecuting, said Miss Atkinson had been the defendant's probation officer for five months and was aware of his previous conviction involving an imitation weapon.

She received a text message from him saying he was being taken to court for not paying his council tax.

"She then received multiple texts, through into the early hours of the morning which were increasingly aggressive," said Miss Akhtar. "He began to mention firearms and referred to Raoul Moat who shot himself after killing two police officers. She feared for her safety and that of her colleagues."

Ben Leech, defending, said he wished to thank the probation service for the well-balanced report that had been produced despite the nature of the offence.

"He feels shame and remorse for what he has done," said Mr Leech. "Prior to the age of electronic communication he may have addressed his problems in a different way. The threats he made were more towards himself than anyone else."

District Judge Roger Lowe described the offence as "disgraceful."

"It was committed against someone who was working to help you, to make sure you didn't go back into custody," said District Judge Lowe. "The effect of eight hours of constant text messaging involving threats of violence would have left the victim extremely distressed."