A NEWPORT man, whose stepson accidentally shot himself through the head while posing for a photo, is starting a five-year jail sentence.

Michael James Hole, 51, of Hawthorn Avenue, Somerton, was charged with possessing a prohibited firearm and child cruelty, after his 15-year-old stepson Lewis Bailey, shot himself through the head on March 2 this year.

Prosecutor Martyn Kelly told Cardiff Crown Court that Hole found the .25 semi-automatic Beretta pistol a few weeks before the incident and when Lewis returned home from school on March 2, Hole showed him the gun.

Mr Kelly said Hole, in an act of “gross stupidity,” asked Lewis to pose with the pistol to his head so he could take a photo, as Lewis had done on a previous occasion.

Lewis pulled the trigger of the gun twice and nothing happened, but when he put it to his head and pulled the trigger the gun went off.

Hole called the ambulance, telling them the teen had shot himself in the head in the front bedroom and the door of the house was open.

When paramedics arrived, Lewis was conscious, shaking and crying.

After phoning the ambulance, Hole contacted his sister and brother-in-law and then went to his brother’s house. Mr Kelly said Hole believed Lewis was dead and wanted to kill himself.

He was arrested in the early hours of March 3 on Nash Road, Newport. During interview Hole told police he hid the gun in a drain in Moorland Avenue and that after the gun went off he stood in shock as Lewis fitted on the floor and thought he was dying.

Hole did not mean to cause Lewis harm and thought the gun was a replica or a fake.

Lewis has since “regained a completely normal life”.

Mr Kelly said Lewis had returned to school and is due to take his GCSEs in a few weeks.

Representing Hole, Gareth Williams said it was a single “grossly negligent incident” but there was no malice intended.

He said: "He is sorry beyong belief and beyond words.”

In a letter read to the court, Hole’s wife Edwina Hole, described Hole as the “glue that held the family together”.

The Recorder of Cardiff, Nicholas Cooke QC said the firearms offence attracted a mandatory five year sentence, but he found there were exceptional circumstances to reduce the term.

Hole was sentenced to four years for possessing the pistol and a further year for child cruelty, less the 104 days he has served on remand.

Hole was initially arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, but as the investigation unfolded, DCI Steve Mogg said it became clear Hole had no intention of hurting Lewis and said he is satisfied that Hole did not know the gun was loaded at the time.

The gun was in a very poor condition, was missing a safety catch and had no magazine in the weapon, with just one bullet in the chamber.

DCI Mogg said: "He had the weapon, allowed this young lad to pose with it as if it was a toy, which is totally unacceptable. They were playing with this gun as if it was a toy, posing for photographs, these are not toys, they are lethal weapons.

"There's a very fine line between an injury of this nature causing death or lifelong, substantial, serious harm to his health but he's walked away, he is to count himself very lucky that he didn't die and has got no long term ill effects which is the good news story to come out of all of this."

The bullet went straight through the teenager's head and DCI Mogg said in his 24 years of policing, he has never seen anything like this when someone has been shot in the head from point blank range and survived.

DCI Mogg added: "It's miraculous and amazing seeing someone coming through that, it could have been one millimetre either side and he could have died."