Man admits to having fake gun during taxi robbery attempt

A man has pleaded guilty to possessing a fake gun during the attempted robbery of a taxi driver

Stephen Dingwall, of Lichfield Avenue in Ballyhackamore in East Belfast, was due to stand trial at Belfast Crown Court later this year on a number of charges relating to the incident.

Defence counsel Richard McConkey told the court he had an application to have the 37-year-old re-arraigned on two charges he previously denied.

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Appearing via video link from Maghaberry prison, Dingwall pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and assault on a PSNI constable.

Mr McConkey added that Dingwall had previously pleaded guilty to a charge of resisting police. Following Dingwall's guilty pleas, prosecution barrister Natasha Fitsimons told Judge Donna McColgan KC that she had an application to have charges of making use of a firearm to resist arrest and attempted robbery to be "left on the books" of the court in the usual terms.

Judge McColgan agreed to the application and set the plea and sentence hearing for September 6, 2024. No details were given today of the circumstances surrounding the charges.

But at a previous hearing in the High Court in Belfast, it was alleged Dingwall threatened a city taxi driver and could have been shot as he advanced towards police pointing the gun at them.

A prosecution barrister claimed that on November 17, 2022, Dingwall flagged down a taxi on Albertbridge Road in east Belfast, requested a lift to a nearby train station but stated that he had no money.

The court heard the driver agreed not to charge a fare and drove him to the destination. It was claimed the defendant then produced a gun from his jacket and demanded all the victim's cash, saying he wanted to buy cigarettes.

But when the driver pulled behind a PSNI patrol car on Ormeau Avenue and shouted that his passenger had a gun, Dingwall got out of the taxi and took to his heels towards Maryville Street.

The prosecution lawyer told the court: "While police were pursuing him on foot, he produced a firearm and pointed it at a constable.''

The defendant was later found in a nearby garden but refused to follow instructions when police issued instructions to him at gunpoint. Mr Justice Rooney was told police used containment spray and leg restraints after Dingwall kicked out at an officer.

The prosecution barrister claimed Dingwall had pointed the suspected firearm at both the cabbie and police.

He said the defendant could have been shot as the officer did not know if the weapon was real or not.

"When challenged at gunpoint, he refused to comply and advanced towards police, again placing him at risk of being shot and the surrounding public in danger.''

Refusing bail, Mr Justice Rooney indicated that the PSNI officer involved in the pursuit should be congratulated for showing restraint.

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