Man who had 'gone to war' against paramilitaries attacked pubs in north Down

Man who had 'gone to war' against paramilitaries attacked pubs in north Down

A MAN who claimed he had "gone to war" against paramilitaries has been given a suspended jail term for damaging windows at two pubs in the Newtownards area.

Robert Alan Beck (59), with an address listed as in County Down, pleaded guilty to causing £1,757 worth of damage on January 15, 2020.

The case had previously been adjourned for a pre-sentence report to be prepared on Beck who appeared at Newtownards Magistrates Court via a video link from his solicitor's office.

A prosecutor said around 9.50pm on January 15, 2020, police had received an "anonymous" call from a public phone box in Newtownards that 'Loyalism Against Drug Dealers' had attacked bars in Newtownards and caused damage.

"Two large rocks" were found outside a pub and CCTV linked the defendant to the area at the time, the prosecutor said.

Beck was arrested at home in the Belvoir estate near Belfast and during an interview he told police, the prosecutor said, that he had "gone to war with paramilitary groups in Newtownards" and had attacked bars.

The prosecutor said Beck admitted to police he had caused damage in Newtownards and attempted to cause damage to a pub in Comber.

District Judge Mark Hamill asked if the defendant had been "acting on his own" and the prosecutor said it appeared so and he "calls himself 'Loyalism Against Drug Dealers'.

A defence barrister said Beck had been before courts for a number of cases in recent years but up until 2020 he had no record apart from a speeding conviction in 2012. Some of the cases were still ongoing, he added.

The lawyer, Court News NI can report, said Beck had spent around 11 months in jail in recent years.

He said Probation Orders "haven't worked out".

The barrister said there had been a "significant deterioration" in Beck's mental health "after the break-up of his marriage".

The lawyer said a previous suspended sentence "appears to be working" with Beck.

Judge Hamill noted it was said the "current offences and previous offences occured as a result of an ongoing dispute and intimidation by local paramilitaries".

The judge said that the day after the Newtownards offences Beck reported that he was "assaulted by paramilitaries at his address in the Belvoir estate; he had to move address and continues to live under threat".

The court heard Beck is on benefits and Judge Hamill said he didn't think compensation was "a realistic prospect in this case".

The judge said: "Given the fact that there is a mental health background; given the bizarre circumstances, I impose a prison sentence but I'm going to suspend it - six months on each concurrent, suspended for three years."

He told Beck: "Avoid courts is my advice to you."