Belfast Telegraph

Pensioner stole from charity box to fund drink habit, court hears

By Alan Erwin

A pensioner who stole a charity box to fund his drink habit was given an eight-month suspended jail sentence today.

David Hull took around £50 collected for the Northern Ireland Hospice from a butcher's shop near his north Belfast home.

 The 70-year-old thief also carried out separate raids on supermarkets for cigarettes and a punnet of strawberries.

 Citing his "extensive criminal record", a district judge at Belfast Magistrates' Court warned him was on his last chance to stay out of prison.

 Peter King told the defendant: "You really burnt your bridges stealing the Hospice box."

 Hull, of Shore Crescent in the city, went into the Whitewell Road butchers last September and took the charity collection as staff were distracted.

 The court heard he was identified on CCTV and later admitted the theft, telling police he had taken the money to purchase alcohol.

 A month earlier he put a £2 box of strawberries in his shoulder bag and left Tescos in Newtownabbey without paying.

 In May last year Hull also stole a packet of ten cigarettes from an Asda branch.

 A week later he was said to have returned to the store and carried out an assault involving throwing a £10 note at a staff member.

 But defence counsel Richard McConkey insisted the charity box incident was the most "unpleasant and nasty".

 The barrister said: "He does accept full responsibility for that, he's really disgusted with the fact he finds himself in this position."

 Mr McConkey acknowledged his client's "significant record", but contended that a five-year gap in offending coincided with a period of sobriety.

 Hull was sentenced to four months for the charity box theft, three months for the assault and a further month for stealing the strawberries.

 All of the prison terms were suspended for two years.

 Judge King also ordered him to pay £75 compensation to the Northern Ireland Hospice.

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