A Northern Ireland Ikea worker who allowed his family to take up to £10,000 worth of goods past his till without paying has been jailed for nine months.
Colin Mark Kenny (20), of Grangewood Crescent, Dundonald, allowed his grandmother, mother and a family friend to wheel the furniture out of the store in trolley loads.
His mother Carol (42), also from Grangewood Crescent, and his 65-year-old grandmother Mary Darling Rainey, from Donegall Pass in Belfast, walked free after their eight-month sentences were suspended for two years.
Their 45-year-old family friend Ruth Large, of Andara Mews, Dundonald, was also released after agreeing to complete 200 hours’ community service.
Belfast Recorder Judge Tom Burgess told Kenny he had been in control of an operation motivated by monetary gain or greed.
However, Judge Burgess said the concerted act of dishonesty also represented a serious breach of trust by Kenny and his custodial sentence was necessary to bring home to him, and others thinking of acting likewise, that it would not be tolerated.
Judge Burgess told a weeping Kenny, his family and Ms Large that the thefts from the Holywood Exchange store were a case of greed in which they were looking for something for nothing and had found an easy way of doing so.
Prosecution lawyer Philip Henry told Belfast Crown Court that Kenny was the link to the whole operation. He said when Kenny was working on the Ikea tills, his grandmother and the others were allowed to leave the Belfast store without paying.
Mr Henry said that on occasions they would pay for the lower cost items and be issued with a receipt to cover their actions.
Defence lawyer Taylor Campbell said Kenny was only 18 at the time and he had initially only wanted to help his grandmother, following the death of his grandfather, to redecorate her home to help her move on with her life.
Mr Taylor said it was a deranged and dishonest notion, and the court was dealing with hardworking people who had made a dreadful mistake in 2009. There was no evidence, he added, to suggest that Kenny or any of them were leading a champagne lifestyle.
Joel Linday for Rainey said she felt really ashamed and embarrassed for what she had done and had readily admitted her guilt from the outset.
Lawyer Charles MacCreanor said Carol Kenny was also remorseful for her involvement and her feelings ranged from being ashamed to deeply distressed.
Ms Neave McCartney said that Large was also ashamed, distressed and embarrassed.