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Mentally ill man who pointed air rifle at PSNI officers jailed

By Ashleigh McDonald

A paranoid schizophrenic who pointed an imitation firearm at police investigating reports he was displaying bizarre behaviour at his north Belfast home was jailed yesterday.

Mark John Page was handed a two-and-a-half-year sentence and was informed by Judge Geoffrey Miller QC that he will spend a year of the sentence in prison, with the remainder of the term on licence.

Belfast Crown Court heard that following reports the 30-year-old was standing in the street wearing knuckledusters and a bulletproof vest, officers arrived at his Westland Gardens home just after 10.30pm on March 6 last year.

Police were informed that Page was acting "off his head" and was seen trying and failing several times to start a motorbike parked in his front garden, which caused him to fall and hit his head.

There were also reports he was standing in the street using threatening language and hitting his head off walls - and at one stage he went back into his house, then came back out again wearing a crash helmet.

When police arrived, Page refused them access, but officers looked through the living room window and noted the room was ransacked and the kitchen window was smashed.

Crown prosecutor Kate McKay said police saw Page with his back against the kitchen wall, then observed him going upstairs. She said: "He came down a short time later with a rifle."

Page then pointed the imitation firearm out into the street, causing both police and neighbours to take cover. He then made his way out the front of his house with his hands in the air, and was handcuffed, arrested and taken to hospital.

The court heard the weapon - described as a pellet gun - was a plastic BB calibre rifle used in soft air play, which was successfully discharged at the forensic science lab.

Page later admitted a charge of possessing an imitation firearm in suspicious circumstances.

Defence barrister Richard McConkey revealed his client has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia - which he said was reflected in Page's paranoid claims that police were after him to take away his legally-held air rifles.

Mr McConkey also revealed that the bizarre behaviour displayed by his client on the evening in question - which included headbutting walls - was part of the "enduring mental health illness this man has suffered".

Urging Judge Miller to display leniency to allow Page to get the help he requires in the community, Mr McConkey said "the place for people with mental health disorders such as this is not jail". He added society would benefit better from Page being treated for his difficulties.

Sentencing Page, Judge Miller spoke of the defendant's dysfunctional upbringing, which included violence against him.

He said the air rifle was not a lethal weapon but "it could easily be mistaken as one".

Handing Page a two-and-a-half-year sentence, Judge Miller said the longer period on licence was to allow him to address his mental health issues and access treatment programmes.

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