A SHOPPER sparked a full scale terrorist alert when he took a BB gun out of his pocket in a York city centre pub.

Armed officers and Special Branch were involved after the actions of Mark Thomas Hawksby, 37, led to the Cross Keys pub in Goodramgate being evacuated by police just before 6pm on Friday, February 23.

Caroline Abraham told York Magistrates' Court a pubgoer alerted staff when she saw Hawksby take the BB gun out of his pocket and point it several times at a nearby wall.

Craig Robertson, defending, said Hawksby had just bought the weapon legally from the nearby Blue Moon shop but hadn’t had time to examine it because the shop was closing for the evening.

So he had gone into the pub, taken it out of its packaging and handled it to feel its weight.

“He was initially arrested for terrorism offences and Special Branch were involved in this,” said Mr Robertson.

District judge Adrian Lower said: “It is not surprising to me that the panic button was well and truly pressed and the police became involved in significant numbers.”

He told Hawksby: “You must understand that in the sort of times we live in, sadly, there are those who are quite willing to arm themselves and use weapons against other people.

“That is why both the police and the courts are going to take gun crime very seriously.

“I can only hope that if you wish to purchase a BB gun again you have the sense not to take it out in public but simply take it home and use it there.”

He ordered the gun to be confiscated and gave Hawksby, of no fixed address, a community order including a 12-month ban from the Cross Keys and 20 rehabilitative activity days.

Hawksby pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation firearm in public.

Mr Robertson said Hawksby had bought the gun to use in the garden at the family home.

A probation report described Hawksby as a “broken man” suffering physical and mental health problems and with grief from the death of his mother. He was also recovering from a long-term drug addiction.