Court hears Wild West enthusiast's explosive materials caused street evacuation in Sutton Coldfield

Tony Woolley Credit: Birmingham Live/BPM

A court has heard how a Wild West enthusiast caused the bomb squad to evacuate his street in Sutton Coldfield after he was caught storing 'black powder', commonly known as gun powder, in his shed.Birmingham Crown Court heard that Tony Woolley, 63, was also making blank firing cartridges and used both in Western re-enactments.Woolley's neighbours were forced to leave their homes on April 25 after the bomb squad mistook a sound box for an Improvised Explosive Device.Woolley was sentenced to six months suspended for 18 months on 26 October.

It was revealed it was his own sister who called the police when it was initially suspected there had been a 'malicious' report from a neighbour.

Credit: BPM

He had previously admitted acquiring explosives without a valid explosives certificate and manufacturing ammunition without approval in relation to cartridges.Judge Melbourne Inman Kc accepted Woolley's motive was innocent but concluded there was 'significant potential for harm simply by the fact of your amateurish possession of such dangerous material'.Opening the case, prosecutor Patrick Sullivan told the court:

"On the morning of Tuesday April 25 of this year police officers executed a firearms warrant at Poplar Avenue in Sutton Coldfield, the home of Mr Woolley, and searched the property."When they searched it they took a number of pictures, largely in the shed. There were seven bottles of what is called black powder, in fact it's gun powder, along with prima cartridges, blank cartridges and spent cartridges surrounding his workshop that was his by his own admission which he used in part in pursuit of his hobby, which was the Wild West."He has an interest in re-enactments of America which involves the use of firearms, not live, pistols firing black powder blank cartridges, including quick-draw competitions where people mimic a duel that was done in the mythology of the Wild West.

"That black powder was not mythological. It's an explosive that can be used with a live firearm."He added: "Also found was a sound timing device which police thought was a bomb and they had to evacuate the local area, they had the bomb disposal team attend. It transpired it was a sound timing device."Mr O'Sullivan stated Woolley did not know he needed a licence which was required because of the potentially 'lethal consequences' of storing them due to the risk of a fire or theft.Oliver Woolhouse, defending, told the court Woolley had been involved in re-enactment societies for 20 years and was known for his charity work.He said: "There appears to have been a misunderstanding this was a malicious report by a neighbour but it appears it came from the defendant's sister who he had fallen out with."Mr Woolhouse argued that his client's actions would have been legitimate if he had obtained a licence adding: "Of course he has learned a very valuable lesson. He finds himself in the public eye and has brought embarrassment upon himself and to his sister and to the societies he is part of."Woolley was ordered to complete 25 days of rehabilitation activity requirement and pay £400 in costs. Judge Inman said: "The potential for harm to others arises from your possession of the items in the circumstances.

"There was nearly 4kg of explosives. It's said, rightly, if you had a licence you could have done what you did lawfully. That's undoubtedly true."But if you were granted a licence it would only be granted if those who administer the inspection and provision of licences had been satisfied such material would have been both stored and used safely.

"You had it in your garden shed, effectively, or in a room with none of the safety devices and features required for anybody who would be licenced to acquire or manufacture. So there was a significant potential for harm simply by the fact of your amateurish possession of such dangerous material."