Belfast Telegraph

Father furious as weeping burglar's suspended jail term

By AMANDA FERGUSON

A man whose son was left traumatised after their home was robbed has spoken of his "disgust" with the Northern Ireland justice system – which he accused of favouring criminals.

John Allen (60) was left angered after "lucky" Paul McCreery was told he had avoided prison for his role in a burglary on his Ballyclare home earlier this year.

Mr Allen's son David (19) was alone at the family's Cogry Road home – studying for his A-Levels – when the gang broke in.

McCreery (22), from Sawmill Road, Ballyclare, was part of a gang which broke into the Allen family home and stole a shotgun, air rifle and ammunition, none of which have been recovered.

His role in the gang was described as that of a "lackey".

Last week Belfast Crown Court heard how David Allen (18) had been at home at the time the gang broke in and had to hide – fearing for his safety – behind his bedroom door. Police were led to McCreery as a result of DNA recovered at the Allen home.

McCreery had shaken in the dock and wept tears of relief when Judge Gordon Kerr, who described him as "lucky", gave him a suspended eight-month jail term.

He had initially been handed an 11-month prison sentence before this was overturned on appeal. Judge Kerr had earlier heard that in order to pay debts McCreery agreed to "steal money for an undisclosed organisation".

Last night Mr Allen, who runs Allen Transport haulage company in Ballyclare, spoke of his anger and frustration that he had been more inconvenienced by the crime than McCreery.

"I'm disgusted by the justice system," Mr Allen said. "I put a letter into court regarding the distress my family has been through.

"They walked past laptops and jewellery. It was not an opportunistic thing, they had been watching."

Despite the trauma of his ordeal, David Allen managed to hold it together, pass his chemistry exam and is now studying medicine at university in Scotland.

Mr Allen said his family "are the ones punished".

"I would have liked him to get a custodial sentence," he added. "To get eight months suspended because he gave a few shakes in court... what about my son?"

Mr Allen is also disappointed his insurance will rise and that he lost his firearms certificate.

"I had been on a clay pigeon shoot on the Saturday and had cleaned and oiled the gun, so it was sitting by the cabinet, because I did not want to put it in dripping with oil," he said.

"I've also lost my firearms certificate. The PSNI will not give me a certificate because one of the guns was not in the cabinet.

"My insurance paid out to cover damage, and of course my premium will go up," he added.

A spokesman for the Lord Chief Justice Office said sentencing is a matter for the judge.

"The defendant was sentenced to 11 months imprisonment and lodged an appeal, and His Honour Judge Kerr varied the sentencing by reducing the period of imprisonment to eight months and suspending the sentence for three years. This decision can be appealed on a point of law or challenged by way of judicial review."

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