Belfast Telegraph

Homeless man who squatted in apartment to escape arctic weather wins appeal against jail sentence

A homeless man who squatted in an apartment to escape freezing temperatures over Christmas has won his appeal against being sent to jail.

Robert Lewandowski (29) was originally ordered to serve six months in prison for stealing keys and then moving into the south Belfast flat once the woman who lived there left for the holidays.

But that has now been reduced to a three-month suspended |sentence following a successful challenge.

The Polish national was said |to have taken nothing during a four-day stay when he used a stove, watched television and cleaned up after himself.

Lewandowski pleaded guilty |to theft and wrongfully taking possession of the property at Tates Avenue between December 24 and 28.

At his original hearing it emerged that he had been sleeping in apartment block communal areas after losing his home and job with a recycling charity earlier this year.

He had stolen the keys weeks earlier when he spotted that the door to the flat was lying open and entered following a party on December 5.

A lawyer for Lewandowski, of no fixed address, said he had left the property exactly as he had found it.

He told the court that when the woman and her partner returned to find him there the defendant did not try to leave.

The solicitor said his client was apologetic, but had only gone in on Christmas Eve when temperatures were down to -10.

The court was told Lewandowski let himself in to keep out of the cold, using the television and a stove to heat some food.

It was claimed that the woman and police were both sympathetic to Lewandowski's plight.

His solicitor also argued that Lewandowski had taken nothing from the house despite having the opportunity to “clean the place out”.

He was given concurrent six- month jail terms for each of the two offences at Belfast Magistrates Court.

But the Northern Ireland Court Service yesterday confirmed that an appeal against the sentence was allowed earlier this month.

Lewandowski, who is now understood to be considering returning to Poland, will instead have a three-month term suspended for two years.

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