A COTSWOLD hotel chef had a loaded hunting rifle and two other guns in his car boot when he was stopped by police on his way home from work, a court heard on Friday.

James Graham, 46, had no sinister motives but had been 'absolutely stupidly irresponsible' not to make sure the guns were kept in a safe and secure place, said prosecutor Mark Hollier.

Gloucester crown court heard at that the time of the offence Graham was under pressure because his wife was very ill, his own restaurant business had closed and he was having accommodation problems.

Graham, of Painters Field, Quenington pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm in a public place and two breaches of the terms of his firearms and shotgun certificates.

He was given a six months jail term suspended for a year and fined £1,000.

Mr Hollier told the court police had received information that Graham was in possession of a loaded gun at his workplace, the Bibury Court Hotel at Bibury.

As officers arrived at the hotel just before midnight Graham was leaving in his car after finishing his work shift. He was stopped and was candid with the police, who found a hunting rifle loaded with four bullets in the boot. There was also another rifle and a 12 bore shotgun.

"He explained the personal difficulties he had in his life," Mr Hollier said. "He had moved home twice in the last couple of months.

"He accepted he had not complied with his licences and had put the guns in his car boot and simply left them there.

"When the police went to his home they found an ammunition box under the stairs."

Mr Hollier said Graham was a man of previous good character.

Lewis Perry, defending, said that at the time of the offences Graham was in a 'sad and disappointed place' because of what had been going on in his life in the previous 12 months.

Both his professional and personal life had been under pressure and he had not given the attention to his guns that he should have done, he said.

"His concerns for his wife were probably paramount in his mind. He also had difficulties with his children and was their sole carer at the time.

"Of course he acknowledges he was irresponsible and he should have secured the guns. "His job is extremely demanding - he had taken only 11 days off in 13 months. He was a man under stress trying to do the best for his family."

Passing sentence, Judge William Hart told Graham "You are the sort of person who should not be standing in the dock of any court, let alone the crown court. You are a hard working family man with a successful career in your chosen trade.

"You have significant family responsibilities. Your wife has suffered from very considerable ill health which has placed an enormous burden on you, as has the fact that your restaurant closed and you had to find alternative employment.

"You are in a part of the country where you know the importance of keeping firearms safe. The danger is not from you but if someone broke into your car and got hold of loaded guns with all sorts of possible consequences. You fell below your own high standards.

"The guns should not have been there. Thankfully they did not fall into anyone's hands and no harm was done."

Graham was ordered to pay £200 costs. The judge said he would leave it to the chief constable to decide whether Graham can continue to keep guns.