A MAN blew off a former neighbour's letterbox with a firework during a dispute over a loan.

Blackburn magistrates heard the victim heard a loud bang and came downstairs to find his letterbox in the hallway and the smell of gunpowder and smoke in the air.

And the court was told his wife had moved out immediately after the incident and had been too scared to come home since.

Lewis Jack Walsh, 27, of Perry Street, Darwen, pleaded guilty to criminal damage to a letter box belonging to Scott Haworth.

He was made subject to a community order for 12 months with 20 days rehabilitation activity requirement and 150 hours unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £500 compensation and a £85 victim surcharge.

Sentencing Walsh the chairman of the magistrates told him he was "very, very lucky" not to be going to prison.

"What concerns us is why you were walking round with explosives in your pocket if you didn't go with the intention of causing damage," said the chairman.

"There could have been people or animals behind that door. We also notice from the photographs the floor was tiled. If it had been carpeted it could have gone up in flames."

Parveen Akhtar, prosecuting, said the victim had questioned the level of the charge and asked why it was not one of arson.

"I have explained that because there were no actual flames this is the correct charge," said Miss Akhtar.

She said Mr Haworth had been at home with his wife when there was a bang on the door at about 5pm on June 7.

"Because of previous incidents he told his wife to go upstairs," said Miss Akhtar.

"The police had previously told him to lock the doors and windows if the defendant turned up."

Mr Haworth also went upstairs but came down when he heard a loud bang in the hallway," said Miss Akhtar.

"The letter box had been blown out of the door and there was smoke and the smell of gunpowder."

Neil Howard, defending, said there was a history to the incident. His client had moved in next door to Mr Haworth and accepted his neighbour had helped him at the time his relationship broke down and when he had financial difficulties.

"Some time ago, when he was employed, my client says he loaned the other man £5,000," said Mr Howard.

"He needed the money back so he could get his own accommodation after he had left the property in Everton Street but it wasn't forthcoming."

Mr Howard said his client was in desperate need and accepted he had placed a small firework in the letterbox .

"The damage was minor but clearly the impact was significant," said Mr Howard. "The victim didn't know it was a firework and he could small smoke."