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Belfast man who targeted Polish family's home over mistaken suspicions of drug dealing avoids jail

By Alan Erwin

Published 09/10/2015

A Belfast man who targeted a Polish family's home over mistaken suspicions of drug dealing has avoided being sent to jail.

Michael Wellstead, 40, was handed suspended prison sentences for trying to break a window and attempting to punch a resident at the house in the east of the city.

Prosecutors said he also told the occupants to "go back to their own country".

Wellstead, of Glenhoy Drive in Belfast, pleaded guilty to attempted criminal damage and common assault.

He was arrested at an area near the victims' home on August 7.

Belfast Magistrates' Court heard police were called out following reports of an unsuccessful attempt to smash a window.

Wellstead also allegedly threw a drunken punch which failed to connect with one occupant.

He stated that the community believed drugs were being sold from the house.

Defence barrister Mark Farrell argued the attack was not motivated by racism.

Instead, he contended, his client acted because he wrongly suspected drug dealing was going on.

"This wasn't a case based on trying to intimidate a family out," Mr Farrell insisted.

"He's very apologetic for the incident and there's no suggestion of a campaign against these people."

However, District Judge Fiona Bagnall held that Wellstead's comments were an aggravating factor that took the case "past the custody threshold".

She said: "It's not the environment we are trying to build in this society."

Based on Wellstead's clear record over the past 10 years she imposed a four month prison term for the assault and three months for the attempted criminal damage.

The sentences were suspended for periods of up to two years.

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