A 19-year-old man who stole charity boxes was given suspended custodial sentences last Thursday at Banbridge Magistrates Court.
Michael Loughlin, Iveagh Close, Banbridge, admitted the theft of a British Heart Foundation box and a Cancer Research box on November 19 last year.
He also pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods, namely an Arthritis Care charity box, on the same date.
On each charge Loughlin was sentenced to two months in a young offenders’ centre, suspended for two years.
The case had been adjourned from a previous hearing so that a pre-sentence report could be obtained.
The court heard that on November 20 the theft of charity boxes the previous day from premises in Newry Street, Banbridge, was reported to police. Loughlin was identified on CCTV and the charity boxes were found during a search of his home.
He said he could not remember the events of the previous day but accepted he had stolen the boxes. A solicitor representing the defendant said the charity boxes were returned with the money in them. She explained that the report indicated Loughlin, had significant difficulties with alcohol, substance abuse and gambling.
District Judge John Meehan said the report also showed that the defendant drank several times a week and that there were assault and affray charges in the pipeline.
The solicitor said that this was a ‘disgraceful offence’ but that her client needed treatment.
Judge Meehan said it was time for Loughlin to move on saying this situation had been in place for some years and he had been in a position to get help.
Referring to the pre-sentence report the judge said it indicated Loughlin had dreams of being a professional snooker player and at the age of 14 had represented Northern Ireland. The defendant hoped to return to the game.
He felt that an immediate custodial sentence would be a wake-up call for the defendant but it was up to Loughlin to make the change instead of carrying out thefts to fund his habit.
But Judge Meehan said that on balance he would suspend the custodial sentences.