A barrister for one of two men charged after a fire engine was stolen and crashed has described the scene as “like a trailer for the next Hangover movie”.
Stephen Law was speaking during a bail application at Ballymena Magistrates Court in respect of Robert Duffin (66), of Green Link, who faces five charges, including burglary and aggravated vehicle taking causing damage to vehicles and houses.
His co-accused, Ross Clarke (19), of Fairway, faces 14 charges, including burglary, dangerous driving, driving without an appropriate licence or insurance and aggravated vehicle taking causing damage to vehicles and houses.
Opposing bail for Duffin, a PSNI detective constable said police were aware of around 20 hoax calls allegedly made by the defendant to the Northern Ireland Fire Service since March 2014.
“It would appear that Mr Duffin has a fascination with blue lights,” said the officer, which prompted a response of denial from Duffin, who appeared via videolink from prison.
“Due to the high profile nature of the incident, we would have concerns for the defendants’ safety because of the public outcry that the fire service has been reduced,” the officer added.
Mr Law said he had seen the video footage of the “bizarre” incident, adding: “It looks like a trailer for the next Hangover movie.”
The barrister added that Duffin refuted the allegation that he had made hoax calls.
The police officer said Duffin had been able to secure Simon Community accommodation in Newry, prompting District Judge Des Perry to comment: “I hope they lock up their fire engines in Newry.”
He released Duffin on his own bail of £500 to reside at that address in Newry and he was also banned from entering Larne.
He is also subject to a number of other bail conditions including a curfew, electronic tagging and banned from possessing a mobile phone.
Clarke, who appeared in a separate videolink hearing from Hydebank Young Offenders’ Centre was described by his barrister Neil Moore as having been diagnosed with “severe learning disabilities”.
Mr Moore said Clarke had never driven any type of vehicle before, to which the judge replied: “His first venture was hugely unsuccessful.”
Clarke was bailed to an address in Rathcoole and is also subject to a number of other bail conditions, including reporting to police three times a week.
Both defendants’ cases were adjourned until April 7, although the judge excused both men from attending until there is “significant progress in the case”.
“There are elements of this that are nothing short of farcical but it is a serious matter,” added Mr Perry.