Police officer jailed for three months for trying to arrest Northern Ireland judge in court
A serving policeman who tried to arrest one of Northern Ireland's most senior judges has been sentenced to three months in prison.
Thomas Anthony Carlin was ordered to serve the period behind bars for contempt of court over his approach to Lord Justice Gillen.
In an unprecedented case, the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, held that the 43-year-old had acted with premeditation and determination.
Sir Declan said: "We are satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that (Mr Carlin) was a man driven by self-importance and attention seeking."
Before the PSNI officer was led away in handcuffs he was told that if he seeks to apologise after 28 days the rest of his sentence will be set aside.
Contempt proceedings were brought against him by Attorney General John Larkin QC.
Mr Carlin's actions and outburst came at the end of a ruling in an ongoing house repossession case last month.
He had been representing himself in the legal battle with Santander bank over claims that he had failed to make payments on a £192,000 mortgage for a property in Co Antrim.
At the end of that High Court hearing he got up and moved towards the bench, holding aloft what appeared to be a PSNI warrant card.
He claimed he was going to arrest Lord Justice Gillen, before security and court staff intervened.
Mr Carlin was arrested on suspicion of two counts of common assault, but subsequently released without charge.
The Police Ombudsman has also launched an investigation into the incident.
He faced allegations of having interrupted proceedings without justification, refused to resume his seat, approached the presiding judge, threatened to arrest him without lawful excuse and physically interfered with a court tipstaff.
Mr Carlin rejected offers of legal representation and declined to apologise for his actions.
On Monday, after the case against him got underway at the High Court, he repeatedly claimed he was being subjected to a malicious prosecution and demanded a jury decide his fate.
At one stage Sir Declan ordered around seven of his supporters to be ejected from the public gallery when the stood up to back Mr Carlin's contention that he was being denied a fair trial.
The Attorney General argued that he had acted with flagrant illegality by an unreasonable and inexcusable disruption of proceedings.
As the hearing continued today Mr Carlin sought further adjournments of up to 90 days.
He also sought the right to cross-examine Lord Justice Gillen, who he claimed was "unlawfully at large", but declined to give evidence as part of his overriding suspicions that the process against him was unfair.
Following all submissions, Sir Declan, sitting with Mr Justice Horner, delivered a scathing assessment of the policeman's actions.
The Lord Chief Justice referred to aspects of his "self-importance and attention seeking", adding that inviting his supporters to stand up in court had been aimed at abusing the proceedings and gaining publicity.
"It is clear that throughout this process he has revelled in being in the spotlight," Sir Declan said.
"It also appears that he has been encouraged by others who have stayed in the background but used his foolish vanity for their own ends."
With no evidence to support Mr Carlin's claims that an offence had been committed, the court held that he had no lawful power of arrest.
"His purported use of the powers of a constable was an abuse," Sir Declan added.
The Lord Chief Justice stressed that the contempt of court jurisdiction is not directed towards the dignity of individual judges, but rather the prevention of an interference with the due administration of justice.
Those powers should be used sparingly, he pointed out, and only exercised as a last resort where other less drastic remedies are not available.
"The court should recognise that those who misbehave are often driven to do so when suddenly overwhelmed by emotion.
"Where, however, it is necessary to act in order to protect the processes of the court an element of deterrence is a proper consideration."
Ruling that Mr Carlin's behaviour crossed the threshold of custody, Sir Declan noted his lack of any contrition.
The judge confirmed: "He is sentenced to a period of imprisonment of three months.
"If he applies to this court after 28 days to apologise for his conduct we will remit the remainder of the term."
Dressed in a blue suit, Mr Carlin showed no emotion as prison guards led him from the courtroom.
Belfast Telegraph Digital