A man linked to a ram-raid on a Belfast clothes shop was handed an 18-month prison sentence suspended for three years.
ugh Samuel Carson (35), whose address was given as c/o Maghaberry prison, had previously pleaded guilty to a charge of handling stolen goods to the value of £12,560.
A charge of robbery had earlier been left on the court books.
On Friday Belfast Crown Court heard that a black Vauxhall Corsa car was stolen in the Newtownabbey area of Co Antrim on April 3, 2020.
Prosecution barrister David McNeill said that at 8.23pm the car was used in a “ram raid attack” on SD Kells clothes shop on Bedford Street in Belfast city centre, which was closed at the time.
“The vehicle was captured driving onto the pavement and then reversing back into the plate glass window of the shop,” explained Mr McNeill.
“Three masked and gloved men jumped out while the driver remained in the vehicle. They ran inside and grabbed armfuls of clothing and put them in the boot of the car.
“The whole incident lasted just 50 seconds. Members of the public alerted police who later secured the stolen vehicle in St Peter’s Court, Belfast in the early hours of the following morning.”
The prosecution barrister said it was difficult for the staff to estimate the full value of the stolen clothing because of the Covid-19 restrictions at the time but they “ascertained a large number of shirts, polo shirts, jumpers and sports jackets had been taken with a value of £12,560”.
Judge Paul Ramsey KC heard the defendant was arrested a week later on April 10, 2020 and his mobile phone was seized.
Mr McNeill said an analysis of the phone was carried out and messages and pictures were retrieved relating to items of clothing offering them for sale.
“The manager of SD Kells identified the clothing in the pictures as some of the missing items taken during the ram raid. The tags in the pictures matched tags used by SD Kells.”
At his first police interview, Carson denied any involvement in the ram raid. At a second interview in September 2020, he claimed he “sold phones, motorbikes and cars but not clothing”.
He suggested someone might have sent him the photos but he denied taking the pictures of the stolen clothing and denied taking part in the burglary.
The prosecutor said Carson had a “large number of offences” on this criminal record including entries for robbery, theft, burglary, vehicle taking and hijacking.
“He was very close to the primary movers in this case, which was an organised burglary,” said Mr McNeill.
“The goods ended up with him within minutes or hours after the ram raid. He would have been trusted by the individuals who carried out this burglary.”
The court heard Carson was offering to sell the stolen items of clothing he had received for “one g” or £1,000.
Defence barrister Sean Devine told the court: “Mr Carson has expressed remorse for selling the stolen items. He had drink on board when he agreed to do so. The items he had in his possession was only a portion of what was taken.
“He is a father of four children, he is in a supportive relationship and his partner is not prepared to tolerate his criminality.”
Judge Ramsey said that although the custody threshold had been passed, he was taking into account Carson’s efforts to deal with his mental health issues along with drug and alcohol addictions with the help of the Probation Service.
Suspending an immediate custodial sentence, the judge told Carson: “It is up to you to carry on making the progress you are making.
“But if you do fall back into those old ways, you know where it will lead.”