My jail hell over 'heat of the moment' threats... by council worker with mental health difficulties
A council worker has told how he was held in jail for six weeks and forced to move out of his home after he was accused of threatening to shoot a number of his colleagues following a heated row with the public body.
Charges brought against Stephen James Brown, a former toilet attendant for Down District Council, were later dropped by the Public Prosecution Service due to lack of evidence that the threats were made with the intent his colleagues would fear for their lives.
Mr Brown said his life was “pure hell” after he was arrested in March for saying that he felt like killing members of the council’s human resources department. The 44-year-old, from Marguerite Court in Newcastle, Co Down, was in a dispute with the council over sick leave when he phoned a council solicitor and said in exasperation: “People will wind up getting killed, that's the way I'm feeling with your client.
“It's going to be a busy day at Roselawn (Belfast cemetery) because that's the way I'm going, I'm going to go on a spree here.”
He was arrested and remanded in custody for six weeks before being released on bail to await his trial.
As part of his bail restrictions he was forced to move out of his Newcastle home and reside in Newry for five months. But the case against Mr Brown has now been dismissed after the Public Prosecution Service offered no evidence against him.
Mr Brown said that while he is relieved his ordeal is now over, he is angry at how the council handled the case.
He said that he had been involved in a dispute with the council over its sick leave policies after he was forced to take time off for an injury sustained at work.
Mr Brown admitted making “some comments about feeling like killing people” but said that at the time of the phone call to the council’s solicitor he had been suffering from post-traumatic stress and depression and was angry at how his employer had handled his sick leave case.
“I was suffering from PTS disorder. I told the solicitor all of this (the dispute over his sick leave) made me feel like killing them. I was frustrated and upset over my treatment and that’s how the PTS condition made me feel.
“Of course I wouldn’t have gone through with it. It was said in the heat of the moment. How many people say things like that in the heat of the moment?” said Mr Brown.
He added: “The next thing I am arrested and put in a police cell overnight. I was then brought to court where I was charged and remanded in prison for six weeks.
“They knew I had mental health problems at that stage and prison was not the place for me. I was eventually released on bail but had to go and live at an address in Newry because police were saying I was too dangerous to live in Down District.”
Mr Brown was dismissed from his council job after he was charged with making threats to kill. He said he has now launched legal proceedings against the council for unfair dismissal.
“My life was pure hell for six months. It was a very traumatic experience,” he said.
“I feel vindicated the charges were dropped but it should never have got that far. I was in prison for six weeks, out of my home in Newcastle for several months, all because of this,” he said.
Nobody from Down District Council was available to comment.