PENSIONERS who kept a cache of firearms in their Southbourne home have been spared jail by a judge who called the case "unique".

Former Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra violinist David Parsons, 65, and wife Sandra, also 65, each faced a minimum of five years behind bars after admitting possessing firearms.

Two derringer-style pistols, a Cuno Melcher brand ME 8 Detective pistol, a Brocock air pistol and 11 six millimetre .22 blank cartridges were found at the couple's home in Belle Vue Road in November 29 last year.

Police had been called to the scene following an alleged incident at an address in nearby Alexander Road.

The court heard David Parsons handed his wife a pistol and told her to hide it in her 98-year-old mother's home, which she did.

The weapon was not used, although tests by firearms officers revealed it could have been fatal had it been fired at a person.

Prosecuting the case at Bournemouth Crown Court, Simon Jones said the Parsons lived in a "hoarder's house" which was searched by a specially-trained police team.

Weapons, component parts, ammunition and targets were discovered by officers over the course of several days.

Representing David Parsons, Robert Grey said police were called following a "confrontation".

Mr Grey's client, who spent five weeks in HMP Winchester awaiting sentence, had played with the BSO for 42 years.

Speaking of his time behind bars, Parsons complained that there were "too many young people" in the prison, to whom he couldn't relate.

Robert Pawson, mitigating for Sandra Parsons, said there was exceptional circumstances to prevent the couple from being imprisoned.

"[It would be] arbitrary and disproportionate," he said.

Neither of the Parsons have been cautioned or convicted for an offence before.

Judge Peter Johnson heard that the couple's eldest son is a heroin addict, while David Parsons suffered a stroke in recent years and required care from his wife.

He said: "This is described by Mr Jones, counsel for the Crown, as a unique case, and it seems to me you are two of the most unlikely defendants one is going to meet in crown court."

The judge said it would be "disproportionate" for the two to be jailed.

David Parsons, who admitted three counts of possessing a firearm, one of possessing an air weapon using a self-contained gas cartridge system and one of purchasing or acquiring ammunition without a certificate, was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for two years.

His wife, who admitted one count of possessing a firearm, was sentenced to three months in prison suspended for 12 months.

Sandra Parsons, who wore a black suit and pearls for the hearing, thanked the judge and barristers as she left the dock.