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DOORSTEP DANGER Drug abuser with 150 convictions put in hotel picketed by locals for housing criminals

Ciaran McKeown found himself in the dock again after calling at 3am to claim he was in the middle of a gun-fight with ten AK-47 wielding men

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Ciaran McKeown

Ciaran McKeown

Ciaran McKeown

A drug addict with 150 convictions caught with a knife and an imitation gun was living in a hotel once picketed by angry mums for housing criminals.

Ciaran McKeown from Ballymena found himself in the dock once again last month after calling the police at 3am to claim he was in the middle of a gun-fight with ten masked men who had AK-47 rifles in the town’s Dunclug area.

He told them he had “a 9 mil in his pocket” and was shooting back at the gang.

Court News NI reported how when police attended the scene they found nothing untoward except for McKeown who was armed with a fake gun and knife.

The 27-year-old chronic drug and alcohol abuser later told cops he must have been “hallucinating”. He was convicted at Ballymena Magistrates Court of carrying an imitation gun in a public place and possessing a knife.

But we can now reveal the authorities have been housing potentially dangerous drug-affected criminals like McKeown in a north Belfast hotel in an area packed with families with young kids and elderly residents.

His address was given in court as 171 Crumlin Road which happens to be The Old Bank Hotel but it’s understood he’s just one of several convicted criminals who have been housed there, often on a short-term basis.

Last year a group of concerned mums picketed the hotel in protest at the dangerous criminals they suspected were being housed there.

They said they wanted assurances that criminals were not being housed at the 19-room hotel.

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Last year’s protest at the Old Bank Hotel

Last year’s protest at the Old Bank Hotel

Last year’s protest at the Old Bank Hotel

They held placards with slogans alleging residents there had been involved in an upsurge of drug dealing in the area as well as house and car break-ins and there were fears sex offenders were also being placed there by the Housing Executive.

One woman held a placard that stated: “What is the PSNI doing about drugs being sold outside here?”

And another woman held a board stating: “Leave our homes, shops and cars alone”.

The hotel has been used by the Housing Executive to get homeless people off the streets during the pandemic.

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However, it’s situated in a residential area and residents are not happy with having to share their area with people like Ciaran McKeown, who has dozens of convictions for house break-ins and was jailed last November for burgling a flat.

He was also jailed in 2016 after he launched a savage attack on paramedics by biting them and threatening police officers he would “burn down their homes with their families inside”.

When we called to speak to Mr McKeown, the downstairs windows of the recently refurbished budget hotel had been boarded up and a steel security door had replaced the original glass-fronted one.

We buzzed reception and were invited in by a man who showed us to reception. In reception were a number of males, some still in their nightwear, who looked anxious and jumpy.

A woman behind a reception desk confirmed to us that Ciaran McKeown had been housed at the hotel but had since moved on.

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Old Bank hotel, Belfast

Old Bank hotel, Belfast

Old Bank hotel, Belfast

 

Last week McKeown appeared in court having pleaded guilty to the knife and imitation gun charges.

A prosecutor said McKeown called police at 2.50am on December 7 last year stating there were “ten men in the Dunclug Park area with balaclavas and that they were looking for him and that they had been shooting AK-47s at him and he stated that he had a 9 mil in his pocket and was shooting back”.

The prosecutor said there were no other calls to police in relation to shots being fired in the area and nobody was present when officers responded.

As the PSNI were leaving Dunclug Park they saw McKeown walking by. He threw a black object to the side of the road and when the area was searched police found a small imitation “pellet-type gun”.

When he was searched he had a knife and when arrested he told police he “must have been hallucinating and he indicated he had suicidal thoughts and he had taken some drugs and alcohol that night”.

A defence solicitor said: “If ever there was a clear demonstration of the effects of drug abuse on a person’s mental health this case was an example of it”.

District Judge Nigel Broderick  put McKeown on probation for a year with conditions that he would attend any treatment programme and work necessary to address his offending.

The judge added: “You are getting a chance here Mr McKeown so if you don’t take it you have only yourself to blame.”

The Housing Executive said it had statutory obligations regarding homeless applicants.

“Ongoing use of The Old Bank for temporary accommodation is dependent on the continued need for temporary accommodation which, unfortunately, is still in high demand at present.

“Our staff members involved in the allocation of temporary accommodation are aware of the need to carry out relevant checks, where applicable, as part of the Public Protection Arrangements Northern Ireland (PPANI).

“As part of PPANI, we work with key stakeholders, including the PSNI, Probation Board for Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Prison Service to manage risks posed by certain sexual and violent offenders when they are released from prison into the community.”

steven.moore@sundayworld.com

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