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Officers in drunken gunshot win sentence appeal

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Two police officers who were drunk when one fired the other's gun through the ceiling at a house party had their suspended jail sentences replaced with fines totalling £3,060 yesterday.  (stock photo)

Two police officers who were drunk when one fired the other's gun through the ceiling at a house party had their suspended jail sentences replaced with fines totalling £3,060 yesterday. (stock photo)

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Two police officers who were drunk when one fired the other's gun through the ceiling at a house party had their suspended jail sentences replaced with fines totalling £3,060 yesterday. (stock photo)

Two police officers who were drunk when one fired the other's gun through the ceiling at a house party had their suspended jail sentences replaced with fines totalling £3,060 yesterday.

At Craigavon County Appeal Court, Judge Patrick Lynch QC said the actions of Constables Samuel David Beattie (23) and Paul Coulter (24) were "inexplicable".

Fining each £1,500, Judge Lynch also ordered them to pay £30 offender levies, allowing them three months to pay.

At an earlier hearing in Lisburn Magistrates Court Coulter and Beattie, both with an address at c/o PSNI Headquarters, entered guilty pleas to having a loaded firearm while intoxicated on June 7 last year.

Coulter also admitted supplying a loaded gun to a person he "knew or had reasonable cause to believe was drunk or under the influence of drugs". Beattie confessed to causing criminal damage to a roof.

Initially they were handed six-month prison sentences, suspended for two years, but those sentences were appealed.

Prosecuting lawyer Joseph Murphy described how the defendants called their colleagues at around 6.30am on the day in question to report a shot being fired through the kitchen ceiling from Coulter's weapon.

Both were "heavily intoxicated" having been drinking from 8.30pm the previous day.

Interviewed separately, Coulter said he'd taken his gun from a locked box inside a holdall, handing it to Beattie while he went to the toilet.

Beattie told police he had "pointed the gun at the ceiling of the property, believing that was the safest direction", and pulled the trigger believing the firearm was not loaded.

Eoghan Devlin on behalf of Beattie argued that while "one can understand the sentence" previously handed out, the offences had to be seen in the context of "a few moments of stupidity".

Rescinding the suspended sentences and replacing them with fines, Judge Lynch conceded that while the careers of the two "are in jeopardy" and "a tragedy from their point of view", the outcome of the disciplinary hearing "is not for me to determine".

Taking everything into account, the judge said: "The offences, grave as they are, can properly be met by a fine."

Belfast Telegraph


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