Good Samaritan red-faced after ‘intruders’ turn out to be police

Edinburgh Sheriff Court. File picture: Ian Georgeson
Edinburgh Sheriff Court. File picture: Ian Georgeson
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A YOUNG man, who thought his upstairs neighbour was being attacked, armed himself with an air rifle and raced to her rescue.

Unfortunately for 33-year old Ewan Fraser, the “attackers” were police officers, who were responding to a call about a disturbance in a block of flats. He was arrested and charged under the Firearms Act with causing the officers to believe that unlawful violence would be used against them.

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court today Fraser of Ratcliffe Terrace, Edinburgh, pled guilty to the amended charge of committing a breach of the peace by shouting at the officers and pointing the air rifle at them.

Fiscal Depute, Ann MacNeill, told Sheriff John Beckett QC that in the early hours of April 10 last year, the police received a call about a disturbance in a block of flats in Ratcliffe Terrace. They were directed to flat 4 as the possible locus. Ms MacNeill said the flat was occupied by a young female doctor, who was asleep. The officers had to knock on the door for a long time before she woke up.

“The accused was in the flat below and heard loud sustained knocking” she said. “He didn’t know the police were in the building and thought it was someone breaking in. He decided to go upstairs and challenge the apparent house-breaker and took an air rifle with him”.

Meanwhile, the Fiscal said, the police had established the disturbance was not coming from the doctor’s flat, but they heard a man shouting in the common stair and when they opened the door saw Fraser pointing the rifle at them. Ms MacNeill said they were not sure if it was an air rifle or if it was loaded and closed the door to consider what action to take. When they opened it again they saw Fraser going downstairs. As he turned round to go into his flat the rifle was pointing towards them again. they took hold of him, disarmed and arrested him.

Defence solicitor, Andrew Houston, described the incident as “unfortunate”. The reported disturbance had been at another block in Ratcliffe Terrace and the officers had gone to the wrong building. Mr Fraser, he said, was: “somewhat concerned and alarmed for his upstairs neighbour. He picked up the air rifle he had had since he was 16 and went upstairs with a view to scaring off the persons he thought were intruders”.

Sheriff Beckett commented: “Up until that point he seems to be blameless”, but asked if the officers had been in uniform or plainclothes. He was told they were in uniform.

Mr Houston said that when the officers opened the door and his client saw the uniforms: “he panicked and ran downstairs to his flat. In the act of turning round to see if they were following, the rifle was pointing towards them”. Fraser, he added, was an off-shore oil worker.

Sheriff Beckett remarked: “I struggle to find this is a crime.” He added: “I can only conclude it is extremely unfortunate you find yourself in this position having managed to reach the age you are, living a responsible life”. Fraser’s actions, he said, had been based on the erroneous belief that the young doctor was going to be the victim of a violent attack and he had acted as a good citizen and neighbour. He admonished him.