A PSYCHIATRIC patient who pointed a pistol at a 16-year-old girl’s face has been jailed for three years.

Ben Mawhood, 24, phoned police and threatened to shoot someone. He then pointed the starting pistol at the girl, a stranger to him, as he stood a short distance from her in Eboracum Way, off Foss Islands Road, York.

A motorist jumped from his car, tackled Mawhood and disarmed him. Mawhood, who had drunk half a bottle of vodka and taken illegal drugs, had two knives on him, and police later found a weapons hoard, including another imitation firearm, at his flat.

Rob Galley, prosecuting at York Crown Court, said the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was on her way to work at about 8.30am on May 4, when Mawhood approached her. She tried walking away, but Mawhood moved in front of her and asked to borrow her mobile phone. She refused and started to walk away but Mawhood, who lived in the street where the incident happened, then pulled out the gun, which turned out not to be loaded.

In the months leading up to the incident, Mawhood had absconded from a mental health hospital and though he had later surrendered himself, he had been aggressive and smashed windows there, the judge said.

Mawhood pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to make others fear violence and possessing two knives in public.

Recorder Mark Bury said Mawhood had been suicidal at the time and had wanted police to shoot him. He told Mawhood: “I accept your motivation was not primarily to hurt anybody other than yourself. But in your irrational state, you caused great fear to a number of people going about their daily lives. This was a serious offence committed in a busy street at a busy time when innocent people were put in real fear by your behaviour.”

Defence barrister Nicholas Barker said that on May 3, Mawhood’s mother and community psychiatric professionals were so concerned about his behaviour they had discussed sectioning him under the Mental Health Act.

He had absconded from a psychiatric hospital earlier in the year and although he had later turned himself in, he had not been taking his medication and had been drinking and taking drugs.

He had long-standing mental health problems including an obsessive compulsive disorder and depression. He had not been violent before and in the days leading up to May 4 a “series of circumstances” had led him to behave in an “uncharacteristic” way.

Two psychiatrists consulted by the defence declared Mawhood’s mental condition did not require him to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act, so the judge passed a prison sentence.