Recovering heroin addict was ‘victim of party prank’ claim

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A man who allegedly ran through a Derry neighbourhood “manically” pointing a suspected imitation gun at people’s heads had suffered a drinks spiking, the High Court heard today.

John McGinley was overpowered by residents in the Galliagh estate, only to return with a petrol can and threaten to burn them out, prosecutors said.

But a lawyer for the recovering heroin addict said he was the victim of a party prank which left him with no memory of the incident.

McGinley, 40, of Bloomfield Park in Galliagh, is charged with possession of a firearm or imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, threats to kill, and possession of an article with intent to damage property.

All of the alleged offences were committed over a three-hour period on March 25.

Police received a number of 999 calls that a man was running around the area with a gun and petrol, the court heard.

It was claimed that he went up to a group of teenage girls in the Glengalliagh Road and pointed the suspected weapon at one of their heads.

Kate McKay, prosecuting, said McGinley then moved into Glendale Park and advanced up the street in what one witness described as a “manic” state.

McGinley shouted at residents to get back inside and pointed the gun at the head of a teenage boy, it was alleged.

According to the prosecution he then forced a car to stop, once again aiming the weapon at the female driver.

“(She) was scared for her safety and her children in the car,” Mrs McKay said.

Local people managed to wrestle the gun from the man at the scene.

A weapon was later handed in to a priest and passed on to police.

Tests on it have revealed it to be a highly realistic replica, the court heard.

Opposing bail, Mrs McKay said: “Albeit the gun wasn’t real, but this caused grave fear within the community.”

The judge was told that McGinley remembers nothing about the alleged episode.

He was said to have become a heroin addict while living in Glasgow, but managed to transform his life and stay clean for the last three years.

On the day of the incident he had gone to his cousin’s house and taken a few beers, according to the defence.

‘Had drink spiked’

His barrister said: “As a source of amusement for others present at the property this applicant had his drink spiked.

“That fits in with the account of him in some ways behaving in a manic manner.”

The lawyer added: “It seems he had fallen foul of a very mendacious prank.”

McGinley’s application for bail was adjourned to allow further inquiries into possible accommodation.

Mr Justice Weir said he was prepared to grant bail if a suitable address could be found and appropriate conditions imposed.