Belfast Telegraph

King prawns in £6.99 theft case binned by police

A packet of king prawns at the centre of a shoplifting trial was not kept as evidence because its contents would go off, a policeman has told Newry Crown Court.

Prosecution witness Constable Ciaran Smyth also revealed he had not kept CCTV footage from the supermarket or the till receipt of the woman accused of stealing the prawns, worth just £6.99.

The revelations came during the second day of 54-year-old Arija Kehere's trial.

The Latvian national, of Main Street in Keady, is accused of stealing the prawns from Sainsbury's supermarket in Armagh on July 31 last year.

It’s alleged that she hid the prawns in a shoulder bag before paying for the rest of her shopping and leaving the store.

During cross-examination a defence lawyer put it to Constable Smyth that he’d already decided the accused was guilty before attending Sainsbury's.

Quoting from the officer’s notebook, the lawyer read to the court: “Report of shoplifter in Sainsbury's Armagh” and pointed out that the officer should have used the word ‘alleged’.

The court heard that the prawns Ms Kehere is accused of stealing were not kept as evidence, but that a second packet was scanned to ascertain their price and that the receipt of that scan was submitted instead.

Constable Smyth explained he'd chosen this course because the prawns would go off.

Constable Smyth was then shown six packets of prawns from Sainsbury's, all similar in shape, size and design but with different prices.

He conceded that it could be difficult to tell them apart.

When asked why he had chosen not to retain CCTV footage as evidence, Constable Smyth replied that only the accused’s back could be seen and that he'd therefore considered the footage to be of “no evidential value”.

The defence representative told the court that the till receipt of |Ms Keher's purchases had been volunteered to police by the |accused, both in the holding room at Sainsbury's and again at Lurgan custody suite, but had been handed back to her on both occasions without a photocopy being taken of it.

Constable Smyth conceded that this had been “a mistake” on his part.

Defence put it to him that he failed to retain the receipt and packaging, as well as the CCTV footage, because “you considered them irrelevant”, adding that he'd chosen to take the store detective’s account of the incident “at face value”.

The trial continues.

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