A chef has been jailed for five years for threatening to shoot a brave former soldier who stepped in to disarm him.

But the judge who sent him to prison said he had been forced to pass an unjust sentence.

Steven Chatfield was drunk when he left the Old English Pub at St Leonards in September.

Customers joked at his antics when they saw him struggling to ride off on his bike. But laughter turned to concern when Kevin Pooley, who had served seven years in the Army, noticed Chatfield had a gun.

Beverly Cherrill, prosecuting, said Mr Pooley struggled with Chatfield and managed to disarm him.

She said: "He grabbed the defendant around the neck from behind and managed to get hold of the weapon.

"He was able to get hold of the gun and pointed it down and away from them before setting it aside.

"Another member of the public came and took the gun away as he was advised to do by the police on the end of a the 999 line."

She said Chatfield, 28, of Foxglove Road, Eastbourne, had threatened to shoot and stab Mr Pooley and the other customer during the struggle.

The gun was later found to be gas-powered revolver, which was loaded at the time. Ammunition and paper targets were found in Chatfield's bag.

Hove Crown Court heard yesterday that Chatfield, who admitted illegal possession of a firearm at Hastings Magistrates Court at an earlier hearing, has previous convictions which include assault on police and battery.

New laws introduced in January last year mean anyone convicted of a firearms offence faces a minimum sentence of five years in prison.

The sentence can be suspended if the judge feels there were exceptional circumstances involved.

Ahmed Hossain, defending, argued such circumstances existed in Chatfield's case and to jail him for five years would be unjust. He said Chatfield was drunk and had not pointed the gun at anyone.

Mr Hossain said Chatfield had taken the gun to his father's house earlier that evening and asked him to destroy it. Due to a misunderstanding, Chatfield still had it with him when he went to the pub.

Mr Hossain said Chatfield had made considerable efforts to overcome his drink problems.

He had got work as a chef and part-time gardener and had voluntarily sought treatment for his alcohol abuse.

Recorder Ian MacDonald said Mr Pooley had bravely intervened with another customer after seeing Chatfield with the gun.

He said although Chatfield had not pointed the revolver at anyone, threats he made amounted to the same thing.

Recorder MacDonald said the other mitigating factors did not amount to exceptional circumstances.

He added: "I find myself driven to pass an unjust sentence of a minimum of five years in prison."