A COUPLE who claim they were honking their horn in support of striking firefighters have been told off for breaking the law.

Helen Ward said that after she and her husband, Christopher, sounded their car's horn as they passed the picket line at Stranton fire station, Hartlepool, in the early hours of Sunday, they were pulled over by a police officer and given a written warning.

The incident happened between 12.30am and 1am, after Mrs Ward, a physiotherapist at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, had been picked up by her husband following a night out with friends.

Mrs Ward, 26, of Lincoln Road, Hartlepool, said: "We were all completely stunned.

"He (the officer) said it was illegal to beep your horn after 11pm.

"My husband could not believe we had been stopped for that.''

Cleveland Police said that the Wards and two friends in the car drove up behind a marked police car before honking the horn.

A spokeswoman for the force said the officer, who was busy dealing with another motorist, was not amused by Mr Ward's "exuberance''.

She said: "It is an offence to sound your horn after 11.30pm.

"In this case, a traffic officer was dealing with a motorist stopped on suspicion of drink- driving when a car drove up behind the patrol car - which had its blue light flashing - repeatedly sounding their horn.

"They were given a warning about their conduct.''

Meanwhile, military firefighters dealt with 24 calls to minor incidents across the North-East between 6am and 3.15pm yesterday.

Of those call-outs, only one was a hoax call and that was on Teesside.

The striking firefighters have won the unanimous support of the Teesside Green Party, which is backing their demands for better pay.

A spokesman for the party, Peter Lammiman, said: "There's more than enough wealth to squander on the heads of big corporations, on subsidies for polluting industries and on going into an unjustified war.

"But when the people who actually protect us against fire and danger demand a decent income, Labour slams the door in their faces.''