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Probation for vagrant who tried to grab woman's mobile phone

By Ashleigh McDonald

A homeless man who tried to snatch a woman's mobile phone from her hand as she stood at a set of traffic lights has been made the subject of a two-year probation order.

John Martin David McGarry admitted attempting to rob the woman on September 1 last year.

Belfast Crown Court heard that McGarry had epilepsy, which had been exacerbated by a long history of drug abuse.

A barrister revealed that in the past year McGarry had been admitted to hospital on 13 occasions.

The accused, who at the time of the attempted mugging was living at a hostel on University Road in Belfast, approached the woman as she stood at lights near the Albert Clock.

After saying to her "give me your phone", McGarry made a grab for it, which resulted in he and the woman becoming embroiled in a struggle that lasted a few seconds.

The incident came to an end when a passer-by intervened and hit McGarry with his walking stick, causing the accused to flee. When he was arrested and questioned, McGarry made a full admission.

Defence barrister Jonpaul Shields said his client had been homeless for the last three years and that his living situation, his poor health and his drugs misuse were "interconnected."

Mr Shields apologised on his client's behalf to the victim.

Saying McGarry's remorse was genuine, Mr Shields added that early on when being questioned by police McGarry said: "I did something stupid and I regret it."

Placing McGarry on probation, Judge Smyth spoke of his "chaotic lifestyle", but said she accepted there were signs he was trying to tackle his addiction.

As part of his probation she recommended that McGarry participate in a drugs counselling programme.

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