An actor obsessed with pretending to be a police officer is to be sentenced today for using a car he had kitted out for a role in River City to pose as a cop during a traffic jam on country road.
David Friel - who has also played cops in Waterloo Road and a Police Scotland advert and has previous convictions for pretending to be a police officer and intercepting police radio messages - was blasted for undermining the public’s faith in the emergency services.
And the 37-year-old was lambasted for his “sinister” and “malevolent” actions after getting his car kitted out with blue flashing lights for his role in the BBC Scotland soap - and using the vehicle to help him pretend to be a police officer on May 4 last year, two days after it had been used in filming.
Friel was clad in dark clothing, to make him look like a police officer, when he approached a tour coach which had stopped to allow a lorry to pass it on a very narrow stretch of the A82, near Inveruglas, Dunbartonshire.
Friel, of Clydebank, near Glasgow, stopped his car while the blue lights were flashing, got out of his car and approached the coach, while giving off the impression he was an officer.
He then boarded the coach and began speaking to the driver - and was only rumbled by chance as the coach driver had previously worked with him, knew he wasn’t a police officer, and called the police.
Friel was tracked down by officers later that day, leading to the prosecution against him.
He claimed the blue flashing lights were on his car for his previous River City role and that he had red flashing lights on the rear of the car as he was a member of the Trossachs Search and Rescue Team.
He had earlier admitted his guilt over the bizarre stunt, pleading guilty to a charge of breaking Section 92(1)(b) of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012.
The charge he admitted stated he drove his black Vauxhall Astra estate “while fitted with blue lights, activate said blue lights, stop said motor vehicle and exit same and approach another vehicle while wearing dark clothing and acting in a manner calculated to suggest that [he was] a police constable.”
Sentence was deferred for background reports to be prepared and Friel returned to the dock at Dumbarton Sheriff Court today to learn his fate.
Defence lawyer Ian McCarthy, representing Friel, said he was willing and able to comply with a Community Payback Order, and that a psychiatric assessment raised no problems about his mental health.
Sheriff John Hamilton, referring to Friel’s previous conviction for impersonating a police officer, said on the last occasion: “To do it once is bizarre - to do it twice is intentionally sinister.
“It is extremely odd and potentially quite worrying.”
And when Friel returned to the dock today, the sheriff said: “Your behaviour on the day in question was extremely concerning and very inappropriate.
“The public have trust in the emergency services - your behaviour brought that trust in to doubt.
“You have brought embarrassment on the Trossachs Mountain Rescue Service, through no fault of theirs, and that was all your fault - you and your strange behaviour.
“I’m not completely satisfied you understand the severity of what you were doing.
“Your behaviour was described by various witnesses as being bizarre, and there was a malevolent aspect to it as well in that you undertook it.
“There must have been some strange thoughts going through your head at that time.”
He placed Friel on a year-long Community Payback Order (CPO) as a direct alternative to custody, which will see him supervised by social workers and complete 200 hours’ unpaid work in nine months.
He was also warned by the sheriff he could be jailed if he breaches the CPO.
Friel has also appeared in BBC medical thriller Trust Me, alongside Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker, and was listed as an “armed cop” in the cast list for a film called Scottish Mussel, starring Martin Compston.