Suspended sentence for making hoax call

editorial image
editorial image

A Larne man charged with taking a fire engine on a rampage through the town causing ‘£1.5million’ damage has been given a suspended jail term for making a hoax call.

Robert Duffin (67)originally of Green Link but with an address at a hostel in Larne, is accused of involvement in leaving a trail of destruction on March 5 last year when a fire engine was taken from the town’s fire station.

He is denying those charges and that case is next due to be mentioned at Antrim Crown Court in May.

At a previous hearing, Clarke’s barrister Neil Moore said the damage causedto houses and cars totalled “£1.5 million”.

At Ballymena Magistrates Court yesterday, Duffin was present for a separate case in which sentencing had been deferred from last autumn regarding him making a false alarm of fire.

He had previously been found guilty in his absence at court.

A prosecutor told Thursday’s court that at 1.30am on January 1, 2016, police went to Green Link regarding a 999 call that a “woman was on fire” and two fire engines were already there.

The court heard Duffin admitted making the call, which was a hoax, but that the defendant claimed he had received a call to his mobile phone from an unnamed third party telling him about about the alleged fire.

Defence barrister Stephen Law made reference to the fire engine rampage case and said a co-accused had pleaded guilty and Duffin is “maintaining his position as regards his innocence” and a trial is due at the end of May.

Mr Law said the hoax call case before the court had been deferred to see if Duffin would not come to adverse police notice and said that had been the case.

Mr Law added Duffin “seems to be ambivalent, a bit confused, as to where he stands in respect of culpability in respect of this offence”. The lawyer said the defendant “needs intensive Social Services intervention to assist him”.