A FALMOUTH man carried a knuckle duster and a lock knife because he feared for his own safety, a Truro Crown Court sentencing heard today.

Andrew James Opie, aged 29, of Laburnum Close, carried the offensive weapon in self-defence, having been targeted as a result of rumours of his contact with young people.

Prosecuting, John-Paul Fitzgibbon said that Opie and two other men had been approached by police on March 21 at around 8.30am, between Acacia Road and Oakfield Terrace.

Opie produced the knuckle duster from his right sock and gave it to the officers, before a search discovered the lock knife in his trouser pocket.

He later told officers in police interview that he had been using the knife for cutting carpet at a friend's house.

Mr Fitzgibbon added that Opie had the knuckle duster to defend himself because he was "fed up with being attacked by people", but that he would only have used it in self-defence.

The possession of the knife was "purely a mistake".

Piers Nosworthy, defending, said that rumours of his contact with young people had resulted in threats of violence, which included trying to get him in the boot of a car and driving at the defendant to try and hit him.

Opie was more recently attacked by someone with a knife on May 5, which emphasised the "real risk" he was under at the time of the offence.

A mental health report prepared on March 22 showed that Opie suffers from emotionally unstable personality disorder and he was described as a "vulnerable character" by Mr Nosworthy.

Mags Hopwood, of the Probation Service, said Opie suffers from anxiety and depression and that had been exacerbated by the the rumours on social media, to such an extent that he had felt "distraught and suicidal". 

She added that he never had any intention of using the knuckle duster as a weapon, just as a deterrent.

Opie's offence breached a suspended sentence for a dangerous dogs offence less than two years ago.

In delivering his sentence, Judge Simon Carr said Opie had "taken a deliberate decision" to carry a knuckle duster with him on the street.

He added that carrying an offensive weapon in public and breaching a suspended sentence meant that "nothing but custody" would be appropriate.

He jailed Opie for six months.