A DAD who was roped in by his prisoner friend to help him ‘nobble’ a witness in a gun case has been spared jail.

Burnley Crown Court heard how Paul Alton had been jailed after weapons had been found at his Bacup farm, including a single barrel 12-gauge shotgun under his bed.

Police also discovered 70 shotgun cartridges. Alton had previously held a shotgun licence, but it had been revoked.

Alton had denied all knowledge of the shotgun and also a home-made pistol, stashed in his loft. He had lied to police, claiming a friend of his wife’s had been shooting on the farm and must have put the shotgun there.

But, Derek Worthington, a friend of Alton’s, told police that 12 years before he had found a shotgun leaning against a wall and had given it to Alton to shoot rats.

Mr Worthington had not signed the statement, as he had spoken to officers on the phone.

The hearing was told Alton had begun a campaign from his prison cell, trying to wriggle out of the firearm offence and wanted Mr Worthington to either change his statement to say he had given him an air rifle and not a shotgun, or not to sign it.

And that was where Martin Cropper, 49, a close friend of both men and who had worked at the farm with Mr Worthington, came in.

Alton had repeatedly phoned Cropper from jail, to get him to repeat his requests and pass on messages to Mr Worthington, asking him to retract his statement. Cropper did and even put Mr Worthington on the phone to Alton, but was to claim he was just humouring Alton.

Cropper, of Isle of Man Street, Rawtenstall, initially denied attempting to pervert the justice but changed his plea to guilty. He received four months in prison, suspended for 18 months and must pay £550 costs.

Alton, 52, of Deanhead House, Trice Barn Farm, is currently serving 30 months, after earlier admitting possessing a prohibited weapon, possessing a shotgun without a firearms certificate and other allegations, in April last year, and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Sentencing Cropper, Recorder Philip Curran said Alton had been getting him to ensure Mr Worthington had 'got the message' about the statement. He added that Cropper simply didn't realise how serious the situation was.

He said the defendant had been out of trouble for 13 years, was working and supporting his family financially.