A taxi driver recorded allegedly threatening a passenger with a gun attempted to flee after the dashcam footage went viral, the High Court has been told. Brian Stalford had a bag containing a sentimental family photograph packed when police went to arrest him at his home in east Belfast, a judge was told. Prosecutors also claimed the 48-year-old got out of a PSNI car and ran from officers during a separate incident days earlier.
Details emerged as Stalford was refused bail over claims he used the pistol to strike and repeatedly threaten the passenger over a suspected drug debt. Defence lawyers argued that the video circulated on social media had a planned and consensual prank involving a toy gun. But after viewing the clip Lord Justice McCloskey ruled: “The picture is one with clear elements of volatility, vulnerability, adverse mental health and limited self control.” Stalford, from Park Avenue, faces charges of possessing a firearm or imitation firearm, common assault and making threats to kill on March 26 this year. He is further accused of having a small quantity of suspected cocaine when detained last week.
Police launched an investigation after the dashcam footage, recorded in Holywood, Co Down, was posted online. The recording shows Stalford dressed in a fonaCAB uniform and pointing a gun directly at his front seat passenge’s face and knees, the court heard. Crown lawyer Natalie Pinkteron said the defendant issued a threat to “take the man’s head off”. Stalford then tells him to “works his debt off” and states: “You are lucky I’m not taking your f****** knees out”. At one point he strikes the man in the face with the muzzle of the suspected firearm. Both the front seat passenger and a second man in the rear of the taxi appear to be shaken by his actions, according to the prosecution. Stalford was sacked by fonaCAB once the dashcam footage began to circulate on June 1. Ms Pinkerton disclosed: “He was then arrested… but when police arrived he immediately tried to flee out of his house. “There was already a small bag packed with a sentimental photograph of his family.” In a prepared statement, Stalford claimed the taxi incident had been a “consensual planned prank”. But counsel argued: “Neither of the other two men found what occurred funny.” She added: “It’s entirely clear what Mr Stalford is telling male one to do - there’s a debt that has to be paid. “Given (the defendant) is saying he will take his head off or do his knees in, the inference is that it is a drug debt.”
It was also revealed that Stalford had previously been detained on May 30 following the discovery of a small quantity of suspected cannabis at his home. “He was able to get out of the back of the PSNI car and run from police who had to pursue him,” Ms Pinkerton submitted. Defence barrister Sean Devine described the taxi incident as a “bizarre set of circumstances” which has caused public upset and embarrassment for his client.
“This was a video recorded with the consent of those involved,” he insisted. “It had been watched, shared and viewed a number of months ago, and the authorities accept there is confusion about how it was leaked beyond that group.” Denying bail, however, Lord Justice McCloskey ruled there was a “clear and elevated risk” that Stalford could either re-offend, interfere with the investigation or flee.
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