Court is told of drive-by firework attacks at homes of police officers in north coast area

Court is told of drive-by firework attacks at homes of police officers in north coast area

FIREWORKS launched from a passing car exploded outside the homes of police officers in the north coast area on Remembrance Sunday, a court has been told.

Robert Douglas (19), of Greenhall Manor, Coleraine, is accused of 'throwing' fireworks in relation to Sunday November 14 and is further accused of harassment of one of the officers and dangerous driving.

The defendant appeared at Antrim Magistrates Court sitting in Ballymena on Tuesday via a video link from custody.

Objecting to bail, a PSNI detective said there had been two attacks on an officer's home in the Coleraine area and incidents in the Portrush area.

The officer said at 7.20pm it was reported fireworks were being set off from a vehicle in Portrush and then at 8.40pm an off-duty police officer said fireworks had been fired on two occasions at her home in Coleraine.

The off-duty policewoman said CCTV showed fireworks coming from a passing vehicle which was similar in make to a car owned by Robert Douglas whom she knew through her police work and also from in the community.

The court heard a firework partially exploded at the front of the property and ten minutes later a second firework struck the ground at her home and then veered off and exploded in the driveway of a neighbouring property.

Around 9pm a firework was set off in Portrush near the home of a police officer.  An off-duty officer called police and followed a vehicle until it had gone the wrong way along a one-way street.

Police later stopped the car in the Portrush area which was being driven by Douglas. There was an 18-year-old male passenger.

The officer told the court when interviewed Douglas said he and the passenger had picked up fireworks in Portrush and "discussed about how they would set them off for a bit of fun".

The detective said the defendant said they were "fired from inside the car" by the other person at three locations.

The officer said police view it as "joint enterprise" and Douglas had been told it was "extremely reckless" to set off fireworks from a moving vehicle in residential areas.

The court was told Douglas denied knowing the police officer in Coleraine and said he was "not targeting her home".

The policeman said the PSNI believe Douglas had "targetted the homes of serving officers".

The court heard Douglas had a limited record but has a number of pending cases including "harassment against a further police officer".

Objecting to bail the officer said the defendant had been on bail at the time of Sunday's alleged offences.

The officer told the court he believed Douglas "has a bit of an infatuation with police and other establishments".

The detective said police are investigating a report that the defendant had been "in attendance" at an "army camp" at Magilligan around 7pm on November 14 and after being spoken to by staff had refused to give details and had driven off.

The detective said Douglas was also seen "acting suspiciously" at Magilligan Jail "trying to get in to the prison" and his behaviour had been "erratic".

District Judge Nigel Broderick said: "Most people try to get out".

The officer said he did not believe the defendant was visiting anyone but "was just there causing nuisance to staff at the prison".

A defence barrister said during a PSNI interview the other accused - who was not before the court - had "accepted setting off the fireworks from the passenger seat of the vehicle" and had been given police bail.

The defence lawyer said Douglas had been "suspended" from a role but is "on the books" of a "nursing agency".

The barrister said the defendant had been working with an ambulance organisation and is due to start a degree in "paramedic science" in England.

He said the "thread running through" the alleged offending was "this interaction with police."

The lawyer said other pending cases involve allegations of resisting police; wasting police time; using a "flashing blue light" on a car; and harassment of an officer when he had allegedly twice driven behind her car.

The barrister said Douglas' interaction with police had been "simmering at a pretty low level" but accepted the latest charges were "much more serious".

Admitting Douglas to £500 bail, Judge Broderick said the allegations are "very serious" and "very concerning" but he had a limited record with three driving convictions.

The judge said on the face of it there was a "very strong" case against the defendant and he had made "certain admissions at interview".

There is a 7pm -7am curfew with an electronic tag; he is not to contact the female officer he is accused of harassing and he not to be within 100 metres of any police station, prison or army base.

He is not to drive a motor vehicle or be a passenger in any private vehicle and he is excluded from Portrush and an area of Coleraine.

The case was adjourned to Coleraine Magistrates Court on December 13.