A MAN with a history of mental illness who pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation firearm was yesterday put on probation for three years during which he will stay in a halfway house and receive counselling. Making the order against Lau Ho-ting, 24, Mr Justice Leonard said his offence would normally have attracted a substantial term in prison. But both the circumstances of the case and Lau's personal situation were so unusual that he was prepared to depart from the usual course of the law and order that Lau reside in the Yuen Long Halfway House, which is run by the Society for the Rehabilitation of Offenders. Lau, represented by Kevin Chan, had pleaded guilty to the offence. Senior Crown Counsel Stevan Cole had told the High Court that Lau was seen acting suspiciously on December 30 last year in Tsuen Wan. When he was stopped and searched an imitation gun was found in his possession. Lau admitted that he had intended to go into the Overseas Trust Bank and use his imitation weapon to frighten people.