A BUDDING River City actor was caught pretending to be a cop – for a SECOND time – after he was recognised by a former workmate.

A court hearing was told Dalmuir man David Friel lost his job with an undertaker’s firm after he admitted posing as a plain-clothes cop on the A82 near Loch Lomond last May.

And when Friel appeared in the dock on Friday, a sheriff pointed out that it was the second time he had committed a similar offence.

Sheriff John Hamilton said: “Mr Friel has a previous conviction for something extremely similar. To do it once is unusual; to do it twice becomes potentially sinister.

“Why, and in what circumstances, does someone who has a previous conviction for impersonating a police officer have blue lights fitted to his car?

“It’s odd behaviour at best. I wonder if he’s got a clear picture of how odd and sinister and potentially serious this actually is.”

Dumbarton Sheriff Court was told that a driver and a guide were on board a tour bus travelling north at Inveruglas which slowed to allow a southbound lorry to pass by on the afternoon of May 4.

CCTV footage from on board the bus, played in court, showed that as the lorry inched slowly past the bus, a dark coloured Vauxhall Astra estate with blue lights flashing from the front grille pulled out from the line of southbound traffic behind the lorry.

The footage showed the driver, Friel, getting out of the vehicle and approaching the bus in a manner prosecutor Emma Thomson described as “officious”.

Ms Thomson said a witness on the bus “formed the view the accused was going to tell them he was a police officer”, but that Friel’s demeanour almost instantly changed “as if he had just recognised him”.

After a brief conversation between the bus driver and Friel, the lorry passed by, Friel got back into his car and made off – only to be stopped by police two hours later.

Friel told the officers the blue lights were disconnected – but after taking statements from witnesses on the bus, three days later police went to Friel’s home and arrested him.

He later pleaded guilty to a charge of acting “in a manner which was calculated to suggest that you were a constable” by driving a vehicle fitted with blue lights, activating them, stopping the vehicle, exiting it and approaching another vehicle while wearing dark clothing.

Ian McCarthy, defending, said Friel had lost his job with a firm of undertakers as a result of the publicity surrounding his guilty plea on February 2. The solicitor said “certain threats” had been made against his client following that plea.

Mr McCarthy told the court the vehicle Friel was driving had been fitted with blue lights because it had been used as a prop in “a well known Scottish soap”, understood to be and handed the sheriff a photograph showing the vehicle on the set of the BBC series River City.

Sheriff Hamilton, however, observed that Friel’s previous convictions included not only impersonating a police officer, but also intercepting police messages.

The sheriff put a series of detailed questions to Mr McCarthy about when Friel had bought the vehicle, when it had been fitted with flashing blue lights, and who had paid for it.

At one point Mr McCarthy said that Friel had “made arrangements for the lights to be taken off” two days after the incident.

But Ms Thomson then stood up to say that according to information provided by the police officer on duty in the court on Friday, the lights were still fitted to the car on the day Friel pleaded guilty in February.

Mr McCarthy admitted: “That contradicts what I’ve just told you.”

After considering a social work report on Friel’s background, Sheriff Hamilton said: “It strikes me that the bus driver knew him, he realises he’s been seen by someone he knows, and he knows he’s in trouble. Why did he put the blue lights on and march towards the coach in an officious manner?”

After a 45-minute adjournment, The sheriff granted a motion from Mr McCarthy to have Friel’s sentence deferred further for the preparation of a psychiatric report. Friel will appear in court again in April.