Northern Ireland

Pensioner who brandished imitation gun at crowd while removing loyalist flag outside his home given conditional discharge

Whitehead man Stephen Graham removed the flag as it was stopping light getting in to his property

A pensioner  appeared in court after an imitation firearm was allegedly brandished by a man in Co Antrim.
Stephen Graham entered a guilty plea to the single charge

A Co Antrim pensioner who brandished an imitation gun at a crowd as he removed a loyalist flag from a lamppost outside his home has been given as 12 month conditional discharge.

Standing in the dock of Ballymena Magistrates Court, Stephen Graham (67) entered a guilty plea to the single charge against him that on June 7 he had an imitation firearm in a public place, namely outside his home on the Islandmagee Road in Whitehead.

A prosecuting lawyer told the court that at 9.20pm that evening, the defendant himself made an online report which outlined how he “objected to a loyalist flag outside my front door”.

“I was faced by intimidating behaviour and filmed while removing the flag,” said the lawyer.

She added that a film clip of the incident had appeared on social media which depicted a man in his sixties “climbing up a ladder leaning against a lamp post” which had a flag attached.

The male on the ladder “then produces what appears to be a black handgun” from the waist band of trousers, holds it by the handle and points in skywards before putting it back into the rear waist band of his trousers.

Police identified the area and the defendant and during a search if his property, a black plastic pellet gun was found on a bedside locker and “an NI flag was located in the front garden”.

Defence counsel Neil Moore told the court Graham was a retired BT manager who had never been in court before.

Having lived in Whitehead for around six years, he found that like many areas flags were tied to the lamp post outside his home and they were stopping light getting inside.

“He had asked some, shall we say community representatives, to remove it but that was shunned,” said the barrister describing their response as a case of “like it or lump it”.

Graham “took exception to this” and decided of his own volition to remove it but with a crowd having gathered outside and “concerned for his own safety,” he took the fake gun with him and believed that “brandishing in that way will dissuade the crowd.”

Mr Moore told the court that “after the flag was removed, the very next day a large group returned and put up even more flags” so in addition to having a stain on his unblemished record, Graham now has to live with four flags on the lamp post.

“He realises that it’s one of those things that in certain parts of this country, certain people will put flags on lamp posts and there’s nothing you can do about it,” said the barrister.

Describing it as a “remarkable set of circumstances”, Deputy District Judge Alan White imposed a 12 month conditional discharge.