Jail for paranoid schizophrenic who pointed imitation rife at police

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A paranoid schizophrenic who pointed an imitation firearm at police investigating reports he was displaying bizarre behaviour at his north Belfast home has been jailed.

Mark John Page was handed a two-and-a-half year sentence and will spend a year in prison, with the remainder on licence.

Belfast Crown Court heard that following reports the 30-year-old was standing in the street wearing knuckle-dusters and a bulletproof vest, officers arrived at his Westland Gardens home just after 10.30pm on March 6 last year.

Police were informed that Page was acting ‘off his head’ and was seen trying and failing several times to start a motorbike parked in his front garden, which caused him to fall and hit his head.

There were also reports he was standing in the street using threatening language and hitting his head off walls – and at one stage he went back into his house then came back out again wearing a crash helmet.

When police arrived Page refused them access, but officers looked through the living room window and noted the room was ransacked and the kitchen window was smashed.

Crown prosecutor Kate McKay said police saw Page with his back against the kitchen wall, then observed him going upstairs. She said: “He came down a short time later with a rifle.”

Page then pointed the imitation firearm out into the street, causing both police and neighbours to take cover.

He made his way out the front of his house with his hands in the air, and was handcuffed, arrested and taken to the Mater Hospital due to concerns about what he was under the influence of.

When he was interviewed the following day, he said that while he had no recollection of the previous evening, he believed police were trying to stitch him up in order to steal his guns.

He also said his neighbours were making things up about him because they didn’t like him and that his house had been vandalised.

Ms McKay said: “His account changed several times throughout the interview.”

Defence barrister Richard McConkey revealed his client has suffered from mental health difficulties and has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia – which he said was reflected in Page’s paranoid claims that police were after him to take away his legally held air rifles.

Mr McConkey also revealed that the bizarre behaviour displayed by his client on the evening in question was part of the “enduring mental health illness this man has suffered”.

Urging Judge Miller to display leniency to allow Page to get the help he requires in the community, Mr McConkey said “the place for people with mental health disorders such as this is not jail”. He added society would benefit better from Page being treated for his difficulties.

The defence barrister also revealed that on the evening in question, Page had “taken drink which he shouldn’t have done” as it does not mix with his medication.

Sentencing Page, Judge Miller spoke of the defendant’s dysfunctional upbringing, which included violence against him.

The judge also spoke of a man who was isolated from his community, whose passion in life was motorbikes and scramblers and who was a member of a soft air club in Co Antrim.

Jailing Page, Judge Miller said the longer period on licence was to allow him to address his mental health issues and access any community-based treatment programmes.

During the hearing, it emerged that half of Page’s 28 criminal convictions arose from the same fatal incident in July 2006 which claimed the life of 22-year-old Darryl Faulkner.

In November 2008, Page was jailed for eight years and banned from driving for 15 years for a series of charges including causing the death of Mr Faulkner by dangerous driving.

Belfast Crown Court heard that in the early hours of July 11, 2006 Page hijacked his father’s car at knifepoint and was seen driving dangerously around north Belfast.

He then hijacked a second vehicle from a female motorist and abandoned his father’s Suzuki Swift.

After stealing petrol from a filling station in Newtownabbey a four-hour police chase using both vehicles and a helicopter then ensued around north Belfast, during which officers deployed stingers.

Page managed to avoid the first stinger on the Upper Hightown Road, but drove into a second one, and swerved into the wrong lane before crashing into a police Land Rover – killing his front seat passenger Mr Faulkner.