A man accused of declaring “all cripples should be killed” has been jailed for eight months over a car-parking confrontation with a wheelchair user.
Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard the two victims, a disabled man and his wife, were left in a state of terror by the level of Roland Rankin’s aggression.
Rankin, 60, was convicted on Thursday of common assaults on the couple and disorderly behaviour.
Philip and Beryl Wright had been trying to get parked near a restaurant in the south of the city when he admonished them for allegedly going against a one-way system.
A judge was told Rankin, of Claremont Court in Belfast, subjected Mr Wright to a tirade of abuse and angrily grabbed his wife’s arm.
Mr Wright, from Banbridge, Co Down, said: “After 45 years in a wheelchair I thought nothing could have offended me.
“But I have lost confidence completely in being out in a public situation in the city.”
Rankin was sentenced to a total of eight months behind bars, but granted bail pending a planned appeal.
The confrontation occurred at Claremont Street, close to his home, on May 20 last year.
Mr Wright said Rankin appeared and became hostile as he tried to manoeuvre his car into a position on the one-way street to access his wheelchair.
“He was aggressive, yelling and cursing. When he saw the chair it aggravated him even more,” the victim told the court.
“He was reaching towards me and said words to the effect that all cripples, he knew one once, they should all be killed and he would do it.”
Mr Wright added: “I was in a state of terror when all this was done.”
His wife recalled phoning police amid fears over Rankin’s unpredictable state.
She said a chef emerged from the restaurant and tried to intervene before retreating amid the defendant’s continued behaviour.
“We hadn’t realise we would be so vulnerable when out in Belfast,” she added.
“Consequently we haven’t been in Belfast since. This was only our second time.”
Denying the charges, Rankin accused the couple of lying and alleged that Mrs Wright had been flippantly dismissive of him when he approached them about their parking.
Questioned by defence counsel Jonathan Browne, he rejected claims that he declared people like Mr Wright should be killed.
Rankin added: “I have never come across anybody in a wheelchair.
“Probably now I don’t like people in a wheelchair because all I see is a liar.”
During the hearing he repeatedly voiced frustration at what he claimed was a lack of police action over motorists flouting the one-way system.
He revealed how he refers to the PSNI as “thugs with handcuffs”.
He denied a prosecution contention that he has an obsession with people parking in the wrong direction, but claimed it was happening in that street “24 hours a day”.
Convicting him of all three charges, District Judge Ken Nixon handed down an immediate eight-month prison sentence.
He granted a defence application for bail pending appeal, but banned Rankin from making any contact with the victims.