A teenager flashed an imitation Glock handgun at his ex’s pal as she sat in a busy shopping centre because he thought it would be “quite funny”.

Anthony Jones’ BB gun, which he had painted black, looked so lifelike that a former serviceman believed it to be a genuine weapon when it fell from the then 18-year-old’s waistband as he left The Shires shopping centre, Trowbridge, on February 12.

Now 19, Jones was described by his lawyer as childish and immature at Swindon Crown Court. Jailing the Wiltshire man for two years and three months, Judge Jason Taylor QC said: “You may have found it funny because of your childishness, but the victim and the people she was with were fearful, shaking and felt sick.”

Prosecutor Tessa Hingston said Jones had approached three women as they sat on a bench in The Shires shopping centre on the afternoon of February 12. One was an 18-year-old friend of Jones’ ex, against whom he bore a grudge, her 16-year-old friend and the mother of another friend.

Jones was smirking as he walked towards them. He lifted his t-shirt, showing part of a black-coloured handgun stuffed into his waistband.

“The victim described him having revealed this gun, apparently laughing to himself and sniggering. She froze in complete shock and didn’t know what to do,” Ms Hingston said.

The matter was reported to a security guard in the shopping centre and the police called. Before he left the shopping centre, Jones accidentally dropped the gun. It was seen by a former serviceman, who said he believed the weapon was genuine. It was in fact a blue BB gun that Jones had painted black himself.

Jones, who despite his young age already has 23 offences on his record, pleaded not guilty on May 27 to a charge of possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.

Two days later he was in Trowbridge when he saw the teenager whom he had allegedly threatened.

He followed her, shouting words she remembered as “drop the case or I will come after you again with a knife and make you pay”.

Appearing in court via video link from HMP Bristol on Thursday, Jones, formerly of Hurricane Road, Bowerhill, Melksham, pleaded guilty to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and witness intimidation.

Defending, Matthew Harbinson described his client as childish and immature. He said he had not left home on February 12 intending to flash the gun at the woman but had seen her and “in that split second he decided it would be quite funny”.

He added: “He was behaving like a prat. He had no intention for this ever to have reached the level of seriousness that it has.”

The lawyer said the more serious offence was the witness intimidation charge, for which Jones was remorseful.

Judge Taylor jailed Jones for 26 months for the gun and intimidation crimes, adding an extra month inside after revoking a year-long community order imposed last year for the burglary of a car shop in Trowbridge.

He said: “You made a deliberate choice to carry that (gun) out in public, then you used it to frighten the young girl when she saw it in your waistband. Your actions terrified her and she was frozen with fear and believed you were going to shoot her.”