Lifelong criminal was '˜challenged to fight'

A notorious criminal with 313 convictions who was forced to leave his home town of Larne has been back in court for his part in a disturbance when a man allegedly confronted him and said: 'You are Noel Campbell, I want to fight with you'.

Ballymena Courthouse.

58-year-old unemployed Campbell, now with an address in Ballymena, was sitting at a table sipping a coffee outside a shop on the town’s Cullybackey Road last summer when a 27-year-old man approached.

A prosecutor told Ballymena Magistrates Court police received a report of two men fighting and that during the struggle they landed on the table which broke.

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Defence barrister Neil Moore said Campbell tried to ignore the approach but the other man persisted and after six or seven minutes a punch was thrown at the defendant who retaliated in self-defence.

The lawyer said Campbell’s “criminality in the Larne area brought him to the attention of ‘certain individuals’ who felt he and his family should leave”.

Mr Moore said Campbell’s previous offending was linked to alcohol and drug taking and involved “confrontations” with police and locals.

Campbell, he said, also had a record for deception but his criminality had significantly reduced in recent years.

Mr Moore said the incident on August 15 was last year was different.

The lawyer said the other man approached “and with the element of infamy that surrounds Mr Campbell starts this fight”.

He added: “This was a day in which he was minding his own business. I submit this was wholly exceptional”.

Mr Moore said Campbell is well known by police in Ballymena who “keep tabs” on him and now he is well-known by others in the community.

The lawyer said the other man had “one goal” to strike up some sort of disturbance with Campbell.

Mr Moore said Campbell is now 58 and after a “lifetime of incarceration he has had enough of it”.

District Judge Peter King said Campbell’s record stretched back to 1968 when his fines were paid in “pounds, shillings and pence”.

He told Campbell: “I think you were targeted because of your reputation and it may be there are others in the community who get some sort of joy out of pressing your buttons”.

Campbell pleaded guilty to two charges - disorderly behaviour and causing criminal damage to a table - and was fined £150 and also has to pay £60 compensation for the table.

Before he left the court, the defendant told the judge: “Thank you”.