A mum-of-two who agreed to look after a gun for an ex-boyfriend has been jailed for five years.

Michelle Edwards, 29, of Cotford Road, Thornton Heath, was jailed when she appeared at Croydon Crown Court last Friday.

The court heard Edwards had fallen foul of a law which demands a minimum sentence for anyone caught with prohibited weapons.

Judge Timothy Stow QC said he could find no exceptional circumstances to justify anything less.

Mr Stow also said the number of gun offences in society was "alarming" and too prevalent. He told Edwards the weapon found at her house had no conceivable innocent purpose and that she had known it had come from a criminal who must have had a use for it.

Julius Capon, prosecuting, said police stopped Edwards on January 13 when she was driving home from taking her two children to school.

He added: "They explained that they had information that she had a gun. She immediately volunteered that she had been asked to look after a weapon and she gave a name."

Officers went to her then home in Silverleigh Road, Thornton Heath, and she took them to an upstairs bedroom.

Mr Capon told the hearing: "She pointed out a roll of green cloth, under which was a carrier bag containing a semi-automatic handgun wrapped in a white bandanna."

It was in a poor state of repair, could not have been fired and no ammunition was discovered.

James Cartwright, defending, said an expert had described the gun as unusable.

"For the first time in the history of English law a minimum sentence has been introduced and judges should look very closely at any circumstances which could be exceptional."

Judge Stow told Edwards, who admitted a charge of possession of the blank firing pisto: "The gun was not owned by you and was supplied to you by others who asked you to store it for them. It was in a poor state, with missing parts.

"You are not inherently a criminal person. You have been completely frank with the police right from the start and you pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, but I have come to the conclusion that none of these features either collectively or singly constitute exceptional circumstances."