Belfast Telegraph

Judge halts trial of woman accused of £6.99 prawns theft

By Connla Young

The jury in the trial of a woman accused of stealing a packet of prawns was discharged yesterday.

Crown Court judge Kevin Finnegan told jury members they were being discharged of their duty in the case of a Latvian woman accused of stealing a packet of prawns valued at £6.99 from Sainsbury’s in Armagh on July 31 last year.

The move came on the third day of 54-year-old Arija Kehere’s trial at Newry Crown Court.

Kehere, of Main Street in Keady, denies hiding the prawns in a shoulder bag before paying for other goods and leaving the store.

On the second day of the trial, the judge said he intended to “stay proceedings” – meaning the case was set to be thrown out.

After discussions yesterday, the hearing was adjourned to allow the Public Prosecution Service time to consider whether it intends to appeal the decision.

Prosecutors then asked for a further adjournment until this morning to consider their options.

Granting the adjournment Judge Finnegan said he would delay “making the [stay] order” until this morning.

Earlier this week, it emerged in court that the packet of prawns alleged to have been stolen had not been kept as evidence because its contents would go off.

Part of the prosecution case hinged on claims that Kehere opted to steal an expensive brand of prawns and had interfered with the barcode in an effort to disguise her alleged crime. This also meant the prawn packet at the centre of the case could not be scanned.

During the trial, defence barrister Barry Gormley produced several similar packets of prawns bought from Sainsbury’s that all varied in price.

On the day of the alleged offence, a second packet of prawns was scanned by Sainsbury’s staff to establish their price. But the person who scanned the second packet of prawns to establish their price has not been identified, or produced as a witness.

It was also revealed in court that a PSNI prosecution witness had not kept CCTV footage from the supermarket on the day of the alleged theft.

It also transpired that a till receipt for the goods was given to police on two occasions by Kehere, both in Sainsbury's Armagh branch and at Lurgan PSNI station, where she was questioned for three hours.

On both occasions the receipts were given back to Kehere without a photocopy being taken. The PSNI officer later admitted that this had been “a mistake”, the court was told.

During police interviews, Kehere consistently denied any wrongdoing.

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