A man who attacked a political party's office with an axe and a crowbar said after his arrest: "I just don't like the Alliance Party."
Judge Stephen Fowler QC said the "wanton vandalism'' carried out by Charles Mervyn Jamison (39), of Old Glenarm Road, Larne, was also an "attack on the right of people to freely hold their political views''. He handed the Antrim man a 12-month prison sentence suspended for three years.
Prosecuting counsel Roseanne McCormick told Antrim Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, that on July 19, 2013, police in Larne received a report of a "smashing sound''.
"Police attended the scene where they located the smashing sound had come from the rear of 97 Main Street,'' she said.
"They found a broken window and entered the premises through the broken window. They found the defendant inside the property in the communal hall where the Alliance Party office is located in the same premises.
"The defendant was holding an axe and a crowbar and was smashing the door and the lock of the door to the Alliance Party office.''
The court heard that Jamison was asked by the officers to put down the weapons, which he did.
"He gave the impression of being very intoxicated and was arrested. Asked why he was attacking the office, he replied: 'I just don't like the Alliance Party'.''
Jamison was taken to Ballymena PSNI station for questioning. Ms McCormick added: "He apologised for his actions. He was literally caught red-handed.''
The lawyer said that last December Jamison pleaded guilty to one charge of burglary with intent to cause unlawful damage. A charge of going equipped for burglary was left on the books.
The court heard that the repair bill for the office stood at £1,390 and Ms McCormick asked the court to make a compensation order for the full amount.
Asked by Judge Fowler QC to confirm that the attack on the office was not part of a "planned or orchestrated campaign'', Ms McCormick replied: "Yes, that is correct. It is not categorised as part of any orchestration or campaign.''
Defence barrister Paul Bacon told the court: "This was an utterly and completely disgraceful incident which was not part of any orchestrated campaign.
"As he told the police why he did it, he said: 'I just don't like the Alliance Party.' But there can be no excuses for this disgraceful behaviour.''
Mr Bacon confirmed to the court that Jamison had worked as a coach builder for 10 years but had to give it up due to epilepsy.
He said he has since been working part-time and had saved up money to pay £1,390 owed for the 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 police since," he said.
Judge Fowler said that by his early guilty plea, Jamison had shown an "element of remorse''.
The court made a destruction order for the axe and crowbar and granted a Crown application for compensation of £1,390 to be paid to the landlord.