Larne man avoids prison for attack on Alliance Party office
A County Antrim man has avoided prison for breaking into an Alliance Party office with an axe and crowbar.
Charles Mervyn Jamison, 39, from Old Glenarm Road, Larne, pleaded guilty to burglary with intent to cause unlawful damage.
He was given a 12 month sentence, suspended for three years.
The judge at Antrim Crown Court said the act of "wanton vandalism" was an "attack on the right of people to freely hold their political views".
The court heard that Jamison was arrested on 19 July 2013, after police received a report of a "smashing sound" coming from the rear of a property on Larne's Main Street.
They entered the property through a broken window and found Jamison inside the main hall of the premises, where an Alliance Party office is also located.
A prosecuting lawyer said: "The defendant was holding an axe and crowbar and was smashing the door and lock of the door to the Alliance Party office.
"He gave the impression of being very intoxicated and was arrested. Asked why he was attacking the office, he said, 'I just don't like the Alliance Party'.
"He admitted during interview that the axe and crowbar were his and he intended to enter the office and trash it.
"He apologised for his actions. He was literally caught red-handed."
The prosecutor added that the incident was not part of a "planned or orchestrated campaign".
A defence barrister said the incident was "utterly and completely disgraceful".
"Mr Jamison works in a fishing tackle shop in the same building and, for whatever reason, which was associated with the consumption of alcohol, committed this offence."
The defence lawyer confirmed to the court that Jamison had worked as a coach builder for ten years but had to give it up after he fell ill with epilepsy.
He said he was working part-time and had saved up the money to repay what is owed for the office repairs.
"To show how he has progressed, he has not consumed alcohol since this incident, he is voluntarily attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and he has not come to the attention of the police since."
The judge told Jamison: "It has been made very clear that you were not part of any orchestrated campaign against the Alliance Party office or the Alliance Party in general.
"That is not to lessen the distress that would have been caused to persons who worked in that office, while you worked part-time in a fishing tackle shop in the same premises.
"There is no doubt these persons and anyone attending the office in which they are entitled to do would have been quite rightly distressed by this wanton vandalism by this defendant."
He added that Jamison had shown an "element of remorse" through his early guilty plea and that had he contested the case, the defendant would have been sentenced to 18 months in prison.
On top of the 12 month sentence, suspended for three years, the judge ordered the destruction of the axe and crowbar and also granted a compensation order of £1,390 to the landlord of the property.