Belfast Telegraph

Policeman jailed for three months after attempting to arrest judge

By Alan Erwin

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 apologises 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 common assault but was subsequently released without charge.

The Police Ombudsman has also launched an investigation into the incident. He faced allegations of having interrupted proceedings without justification, refusing to resume his seat, approaching the presiding judge, threatening to arrest him without lawful excuse and physically interfering 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 under way 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 they stood up to support Mr Carlin.

The Attorney General argued that he had acted with flagrant illegality by an unreasonable and inexcusable disruption of proceedings.

As the hearing continued yesterday 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".

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.

"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.

"Where, however, it is necessary to act in order to protect the processes of the court an element of deterrence is proper," he said.

Ruling that Mr Carlin's behaviour crossed the threshold of custody, Sir Declan noted his lack of any contrition.

The judge said: "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."

Mr Carlin showed no emotion as he was led away.

Belfast Telegraph


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