St Albans military collector Alan Tissington avoids jail after ammunition discovered at his home
PUBLISHED: 06:00 22 September 2016
One of this country's best known collectors of military artefacts has avoided a jail sentence despite being found storing munitions during a police raid - a result he described as a "positive outcome".
Alan Tissington, 50, a military memorabilia collector of Windmill Avenue in St Albans, has been sentenced after pleading guilty to three charges of possessing ammunition without a certificate and three of possessing prohibited ammunition.
Although he was initially charged with 14 offences in the wake of the police raid two years ago, other charges were left on the file or had not guilty verdicts entered.
At St Albans Crown Court last Thursday (15), he was given a 12-month community order to carry out 150 hours’ unpaid work, and told to pay £1,500 prosecution costs.
Mr Tissington caused a major alert when, following a tip-off, Herts Police believed he had a munitions store of bombs, hand grenades, artillery shells and bullets at his home.
The father of two, a London-based firefighter, had converted a small garage at his home into a museum that displayed First and Second World War gas masks, rifles, military uniforms and flags.
His home was raided on September 17, 2014, in front of a large media contingent, following the execution of a search warrant.
Neighbouring homes were evacuated, and Army bomb disposal experts blew up seized explosive artefacts in a farmer’s field in Sandridge.
The dramatic raid featured on the BBC’s Countryfile series three months later.
At the time of his arrest on suspicion of theft from heritage and protected sites, Mr Tissington wrote on Facebook that he was ‘devastated’ his life’s work had been destroyed.
Prosecutor John Upton told the Crown Court that Mr Tissington had informed police on the morning of the raid that he did metal detecting, but had no live ammunition or weapons in his home.
Mr Upton added: “An officer was so concerned at what he saw in the garage that a cordon was set up and four neighbouring homes were evacuated for safety.”
He said it was regrettable that the Crown was unable to proceed on a number of counts, as the record taken of what was destroyed when Ordnance Explosive teams blew up seized items “was not adequate”.
The items Mr Tissington pleaded guilty to illegally possessing were six rounds of .45 calibre ammunition from 1942, a round of .222 ammunition from the 1950s/60s, a single round of US carbine ammunition from 1943 and three prohibited bullet heads.
Nicholas Doherty, defending, said the Crown had ‘over-egged’ the case.
Mr Doherty, who specialises in law relating to firearms, told the court: “There was nothing dangerous in the museum. It was in his family home. He was not going to put his family and his neighbours in danger.
“He is one of the best known collectors of military artefacts in the country.”
Mr Doherty said that Mr Tissington, who was suspended on full pay by the London Fire Brigade, was a decent law-abiding man who last year received a certificate from the Royal Humane Society for saving a man’s life when he collapsed at a car boot sale in Hatfield.
Mr Tissington is a member of ‘Extreme Relic Hunters’ who travel to Second World War battlefields and find dog tags of dead soldiers, and contact their relatives. He and other members of the group also clean war memorials and servicemen’s graves.
Judge Jonathan Carroll told Mr Tissington that his case was unusual and exceptional, with most people facing sentence for such charges receiving an immediate custodial term.
But, he told him: “From a very early age you have been an avid collector of military memorabilia. You are of some repute and have created a museum, which was secure and alarmed.
“I accept you had no criminal intent and you never intended to possess live weapons or ammunition.
“There is nothing wrong with your hobby in itself. It is clear from the way you pursue your hobby, you have done nothing wrong. However you shouldn’t have had these items.”
After sentencing, Det Insp Pete Frost, St Albans Police, said: “The munitions discovered that day were determined to be potentially very dangerous by Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal experts, who recommended that they were immediately destroyed.”
Det Insp Frost said that Mr Tissington had received an “appropriate sentence” after pleading guilty to six counts.
Mr Tissington told the Herts Advertiser that he was “very pleased with the outcome and I’m glad it’s all over. It’s been a very stressful two years”.
On his Facebook page, he said his family’s lives were, “turned upside down when we were raided by the police. As of [last] Thursday our nightmare finally ended with a positive outcome.”
Friends replied that it was a “good outcome” and advised him it was “time to move on”.