Ex-Nottingham Forest footballer jailed for gun possession and dangerous driving
An ex-footballer who crashed a stolen van into a fence and threw a loaded revolver into a family's garden while on the run from police has been jailed.
Luke Thomas, who represented Nottingham Forest before a knee injury curtailed his career, admitted acting as a "courier" on 10 June last year.
Nottingham Crown Court heard he had become depressed after the injury.
The 20-year-old admitted possessing a firearm and ammunition, as well as dangerous driving.
He was jailed for five years and eight months and disqualified from driving for 44 months.
The court heard police began trailing the van in the St Ann's area of Nottingham as it was being driven with cloned number plates.
After initially pulling over, Thomas, formerly of Cardale Road in Nottingham, drove off, and after driving down a dead end he fled on foot, with the van crashing into a garden fence and trapping a passenger inside.
As Thomas ran away from officers, he threw the gun into a nearby garden.
The weapon was handed to police by the householder, which they found was a blank-firing pistol converted to fire live ammunition and fully loaded with eight hollow-point lead bullets.
DNA was found linking Thomas to the van and weapon, the court heard, and he was arrested on 4 July.
Jonathan Cox, prosecuting, said Thomas's attempt to escape police saw him drive "at high speed, taking no account for other road users", and that he threw away the loaded gun "without any thought over who may find it, in particular children".
Defending, Barry Grennan told the court Thomas had been depressed following the injury that ended his career, and did not know the gun he was delivering was loaded.
"He was asked under some pressure to take the firearm... he was afraid to do so," he said.
"On seeing the police he panicked and drove off in a dangerous manner."
Judge Paul Mann QC, sentencing, accepted Thomas had no intention to use the weapon himself, but described the hollow-point bullets in the gun as "particularly grave" and "truly dangerous pieces of ammunition".
"From what I've been told you had a promising career ahead of you as a professional footballer - somehow that all went wrong," he said.
"You were acting as a courier for persons unknown, but clearly persons who were, if necessary, willing to use that gun and ammunition.
"It's because of people like you willing to act as couriers that it makes detection of these weapons and ammunition so difficult, and makes it easier for serious criminals to get hold of and share weapons of this kind.
"That puts the rest of us that live in this city at serious risk."