Former police officer in sectarian abuse against neighbours in Magherafelt

Magherafelt Courthouse.
Magherafelt Courthouse.

A former police officer who harassed his neighbours and left them in a great deal of distress, was given a six-month jail sentence suspended for three years when he appeared at Magherafelt Magistrates Court.

Brian Coulter (56), of Sandy Braes, Magherafelt, admitted harassing Robert and Barbara Kane between January 24 and February 12 last year.

District Judge Alan White said what Coulter did was terrible but he accepted that it was caused by his alcohol misuse.

The court heard that on January 25 last year the injured parties heard loud banging at their front door and saw Coulter standing outside.

A prosecuting lawyer said when they went to the door Coulter began shouting aggressively, using explicit language which had left them shaken.

The lawyer said the next day the victims found that one of their garden ornaments had been smashed and kicked into the garden.

Counsel explained the couple later found two pages in the entry containing abusive language and allegations which left them greatly distressed.

He said the injured parties then received a post card with similar abuse and telling them to keep out of the entry and to take down the CCTV camera. Counsel said the defendant had signed the card ‘Brian Coulter’.

The prosecutor added that police were treating the incident as a hate crime because the comments were sectarian in nature.

A defence barrister said it was hard not to have some sympathy for defendant when one considered his background. He explained that Coulter had been a serving police officer in south Armagh in the 1980s. He said that he had exchanged a shift with a colleague who had then been blown up, and this was when he turned to alcohol and has been battling the addiction ever since.

The lawyer said Coulter had a complete mental breakdown last October and this had resulted in a five-month stay in Holywell Hospital.

He explained that Coulter had received a suspended prison sentence for a matter which occurred after this incident and has not drank or re-offended since. “Mr Coulter has moved away from the house where these people live and the house has been put up for sale,” he said.

Mr White said Coulter had not re-offended since the last suspended sentence and he did not wish to send him to jail again. He wished him well in his battle against alcohol.