A Judge has praised the bravery and calmness of an ambulance paramedic who persuaded a shotgun wielding patient to calm down and put down the weapon.

Paul McElroy summoned an ambulance to his home in Newton Abbot during a mental health crisis but then tried to take paramedic Keith Edwards hostage at gunpoint.

He allowed only one of the two-person crew into his home before slamming the door before menacing Mr Edwards with a realistic looking shotgun. The ambulanceman happened to be a former Royal Engineer soldier who had a specialist knowledge of weapons and recognised the gun as an imitation.

McElroy demanded that he go back to the ambulance and fetch drugs which he could use to commit suicide, but Mr Edwards kept him talking and defused the situation to the point where he allowed him to leave and surrendered himself to armed police.

Judge Peter Johnson praised Mr Edwards. He said: “He has written an impact statement which is extremely magnanimous.

“I have not seen a letter like this in relation to such a serious offence before. It reflects great credit on him and on the ambulance service. I pay tribute to him.”

McElroy, aged 43, of Courtenay Road, Newton Abbot, admitted possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and was ordered to undertake 12 month mental health and alcohol treatment requirements, 120 days of alcohol abstinence monitoring, and 20 days of rehabilitation activities.

Miss Kelly Scrivener, prosecuting, said the paramedic crew was called to McElroy’s home on December 21 last year and Mr Edwards was the first to go inside. Once there, McElroy shut the door and waved the gun in his face. He also saw an axe and baseball bat nearby.

Mr Edwards persuaded McElroy to talk and succeeded in calming him down and agreeing to leave the house without harming himself or anyone else.

Miss Laila Jhaveri, defending, said McElroy is keen to receive help for his mental health problems. She said the other weapons at the house had been left there by someone else and he had no intention of using them.