Belfast Telegraph

Man's mental health issues from cannabis use 'led to axe attack'

A man who has admitted firing two crossbow arrows at his neighbour's house and chopping the victim's front door with an axe was a cannabis addict who smoked up to 30 joints a day, a court has been told
A man who has admitted firing two crossbow arrows at his neighbour's house and chopping the victim's front door with an axe was a cannabis addict who smoked up to 30 joints a day, a court has been told

By George Jackson

A man who has admitted firing two crossbow arrows at his neighbour's house and chopping the victim's front door with an axe was a cannabis addict who smoked up to 30 joints a day, a court has been told.

Brian Gerald Forbes (50), from Glenanne in the Brandywell area of Londonderry, admitted threatening to kill his US-born neighbour, causing criminal damage to his home and possessing an axe, crossbow and arrows.

Forbes, who worked as a carpenter, committed the offences at Glendara, also in the Brandywell, on January 3, 2017.

He carried out the attack on his neighbour's home after they had a fall-out over an alleged unpaid loan of £1,000.

A prosecution barrister told Judge Philip Babington at the Crown Court in Derry that the victim was watching television when he heard a bang outside his front door. When he went outside he saw his former friend Forbes standing a short distance away armed with a crossbow and putting an arrow into it. Forbes shouted, "I am going to f**king kill you" and added, "You get on that bike and you get out of here", the court heard.

The terrified victim went back inside and was crouched down when another arrow struck and lodged in the front door. Forbes then chopped at the door several times with an axe.

The prosecutor said the victim called the police and members of the PSNI's Armed Response Unit arrived and detained Forbes. The officers found the weapons in a shed at the rear of Forbes' home.

During police interview, Forbes said he wanted to send his former friend a message and that he wanted to put fear into him. He admitted he'd armed himself with a crossbow, three arrows and an axe.

"He said he wanted his actions to have a psychological effect and that he struck the front door with the axe four or five times," the barrister said.

At the time of the incident Forbes had stopped engaging with the mental health services and had stopped taking his medication.

A pre-sentence report assessed Forbes as having a low likelihood of reoffending and as someone who accepted his actions were wrong. The prosecutor said three independent medical experts who had examined Forbes all agreed he suffered from a delusional disorder brought about by his cannabis use.

Describing the case as highly unusual, a defence barrister said his client had relevant mental health issues dating back to 2006 and whose consumption of cannabis led to paranoia. He said Forbes' use of the drug increased when an accident meant he could no longer work as a carpenter.

"Those who advocate that cannabis is a relatively harmless substance should be aware that it has caused substantial damage to this man's brain chemistry, causing episodes of psychosis and of paranoid thoughts. At the time this criminal behaviour was linked to acute mental health issues due to the harmful use of cannabis in recent years," he said.

Forbes was released on continuing bail until he's sentenced next week.

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