A man caught with a knuckle duster in his pocket after being stopped by the police for handling a stolen car has been spared jail.

Christopher David Wells of Marsh House Lane, Darwen was handed a 10 month jail sentence suspended for 12 months and ordered to carry out 10 days of rehabilitation work when he appeared before a judge at Preston Crown Court last week.

The court heard how on January 14, police had spotted a car driving erratically on Olive Lane in Darwen.

Prosecuting, Francis McEntee said: "A vehicle belonging to Faizal Zaman had been stolen overnight on January 9 and it was then seen four days later on January 14 on Olive Lane in Darwen.

"Police followed the vehicle, a Vauxhall Astra, and it came to a stop on Sudellside Street.

"The defendant, who was in the car, got out and went into a shop."

Mr McEntee said officers handcuffed Wells, 32, and asked him where the key to the car was.

Wells told the officers it was in his pocket and when they went to search him they found a knuckle duster.

He was arrested, charged and later pleaded guilty to handling a stolen vehicle, possession of an offensive weapon, driving without an appropriate licence and driving without insurance.

Mr McEntee continued: "He admitted to handling the vehicle but said he'd paid £450 for it, aware that it was on false plates.

"He said he carried the knuckle duster for his own safety in case anyone jumped him, and had been sleeping in the car due to a breakdown in his nine year relationship with the mother of his children.

"He has a number of previous convictions dating back to 2002, including possession with the intent to supply class A drugs."

Mitigating in Wells' defence Neil Howard said his client was not thinking at the time and wouldn't have taken the action he did had he not had issues in his relationship and with his grandfather.

Mr Howard told the court: "His grandfather is a father figure to him, and played an influential role in his life.

"He was diagnosed with lung cancer and given only six to 12 months to live.

"The defendant is here today knowing he has a great deal to lose, especially with coronavirus and his grandfather being on the vulnerable list.

"He has three children aged six, four and two, and considers his actions selfish."

Mr Howard asked Judge Beverley Lunt for leniency in sentencing due to the history of Wells' previous convictions and the fact he was not brandishing the knuckle duster when police stopped him.

Judge Lunt said: "You knew exactly what you were doing when you decided to live in someone else's car with no insurance and no licence and armed yourself with a knuckle duster.

"You pleaded guilty to the offences but, you were caught red handed.

"In a desperate hope you will grow up, I will suspend the sentence for 12 months."