Ex-postman wins appeal against jail sentence after stealing money from mail
Darren Johnston has six month sentenced suspended
A postman who stole nearly £1,300 in cash gifts sent by mail has won his appeal against being sent to jail.
Darren Johnston was originally ordered to serve six months behind bars for opening packages to seek out birthday cards containing money.
But a judge at Belfast County Court today decided to suspend the prison term for three years after being told of Johnston's previous clear record.
With the 29-year-old since sacked by Royal Mail, a defence lawyer also predicted his future job prospects to be bleak.
Johnston, of Gleneagles in Cloughmills, Co Antrim, admitted stealing a total of £1,280 in cash between July 2013 and September 2014.
He also took two DVDs and a bank card from other parcels.
As well as the thefts he was convicted of six counts of interfering with mail.
According to his legal team he began stealing birthday cards after coming under financial pressure to support his family while his partner was off work.
His £300 a week salary became "stretched" as he struggled with debts.
Appealing the sentence of immediate imprisonment imposed last month, defence counsel Michael Ward argued that it would cause hardship for Johnston's partner and young child.
Mr Ward claimed his client has made himself almost unemployable by his actions.
A number of character references were also handed into court on behalf of the defendant.
Although Judge Geoffrey Millar QC emphasised the seriousness of the offences, he decided there were enough exceptional circumstances to allow the appeal.
On that basis he substituted the original jail term for a sentence of six months in prison, suspended for three years.