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Court hears man produced imitation gun in bank ‘for joke’

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A man who pointed an imitation gun at a bank cashier “for a joke” has received a suspended prison sentence after the “bizarre” prank back-fired.

Coleraine Magistrates Court heard how Nollaig Magfhinn had been caught on camera at the Ulster Bank in Ballycastle in March last year.

After withdrawing £3,500, the 61-year-old called the cashier by name and said: “It’s a good job you gave me that money or you would be in bother.”

Magfhinn produced a black and gold imitation revolver from a plastic bag and pointed it at the cashier, returning to apologise the next day when he was identified to police in the branch.

When officers spoke to Magfhinn outside the bank he began shouting while members of the public, including children, looked on.

During his arrest Magfhinn pinned his arms to his side and police had to use CS spray, as he continued to shout and swear in the street.
The imitation weapon was found during a search of Magfhinn’s home, the court was told.

During interview he admitted having the imitation weapon which he said he had purchased in a shop for £110, insisting he had pointed it “for a joke” and apologising for upsetting the cashier.

Magfhinn pleaded guilty to carrying an imitation firearm in public, disorderly behaviour and resisting police.

A defence lawyer said Magfhinn’s mental health was “taking a dip” before “this bizarre incident.”

A regular customer at the bank and well-known locally, he had been very friendly with the cashier and it had been “a completely misguided attempt at some humour.”

Magfhinn was extremely sorry for being so foolish and causing any distress to the cashier, and had expressed remorse and regret for his behaviour, now realising how stupid he had been.

Magfhinn, who has 28 previous convictions including making a hoax bomb call, had received treatment and was receiving support in the community.

Imposing a five month prison sentence, suspended for three years, District Judge Peter King told Magfhinn: “This may have been your idea of a joke but there was absolutely nothing remotely funny about it; I have seen CCTV from the bank. We are not talking about a toy gun; this was an imitation firearm.

“Because of the realism that the model exhibited, anybody who was not a weapons expert would have assumed it was a firearm.

“Due to the treatment you have received and on-going treatment in the community that seems to be working I fear that if I take you out of the community you would be more at risk of re-offending.”

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