A firearms expert who stole rifles from a historical collection at an army base has been jailed for three years.

Peter Laidler, 72, of Marcham, Oxfordshire, took home sniper and assault rifles from the Small Arms School Collection in Warminster.

He was found guilty of four thefts after two trials at Winchester Crown Court. He also admitted possessing a prohibited high-powered pistol.

The judge said Laidler had a "proprietary attitude" to the weapons.

Laidler, a former policeman and army corporal, took the weapons between 1998 and 2016 while he was the collection's armourer.

The court heard he gave himself permission to remove them, telling police: "I am the boss... I was the clearance."

Robert Bryan, prosecuting, said the stolen weapons and parts, from two L96 Accuracy International sniper rifles and two SA80 rifles, were worth more than £20,000.

The defendant sold one of the rifles for £10,000, he added.

Mr Bryan said Laidler reconstructed the stolen items, creating "inherently dangerous" firearms.

"We are dealing with lethal weapons... created from parts that have not been proved," he said.

"They are capable of causing damage either to the user or to the public at large."

The Browning semi-automatic pistol was found "unsecured" in Laidler's office while two of the stolen rifles were discovered in his garage, the court heard.

Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) said no weapons remained unaccounted for.

Judge Richard Parkes QC said Laidler had shown a "continuing disregard for the duties of trust that he owed to the collection".

The Ministry of Defence collection, based at Warminster's Land Warfare Centre, shows the development of small weapons from the 16th Century to the present day.

MDP said security had since been tightened at the base, including the introduction of a scanner and improved record-keeping.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) police officer Roger Smith, 61, of Emsworth, Hampshire, was previously convicted of handling a stolen firearm in relation to the case.

He was given a 12-month community order, including 200 hours of unpaid work, after an SA80 assault rifle - the Army's standard issue automatic rifle - was found at his home.