Thief who broke into student housing in bid to steal items to buy drugs jailed
A 20-year-old man who broke into student accommodation was motivated to steal articles to sell in exchange for Diazepam, a court heard.
James Valliday was handed a sentence of two years and four months after he admitted four charges - including assaulting a security guard - at Belfast Crown Court.
The father of one, who was under the influence of Diazepam when he targeted the student accommodation at Mount Charles, was informed by Her Honour Judge McCaffrey that he will serve half his sentence in custody, with the remaining 14 months on supervised licence when he is released.
The court heard the defendant - whose address was given as Hydebank YOC - has engaged in courses and classes including a City and Guilds whilst on remand, in a bid to enhance his prospects of gaining employment when he has served his sentence. Valliday has also expressed remorse for his actions last January.
Prior to sentence being passed yesterday, a previous hearing was told that in the early hours of January 23, 2016, police were called to premises on Mount Charles which is owned by Queen's University and used to house students.
Police were informed that security staff from the university had detained an intruder who at one stage was armed with a knife he had picked up from the kitchen of the property.
The alarm was raised after an occupant woke to find Valliday standing at the end of his bed. He left and walked to another part of the property, with the knife tucked into his jacket.
QUB security staff attended and Valliday was located in another part of the property.
Crown prosecutor Mark Farrell said he gained access to this area by breaking an internal fire door.
The security guards were able to disarm Valliday, but a struggle ensued between him and one of the guards. He later stated that whilst he was not hurt, he was left feeling "stiff and sore" from his tussle with Valliday.
Police arrived around 3.30am, Valliday was arrested and during a search, he was found to be in possession of two key cards belonging to Madisons Hotel, that he later admitted stealing.
During police interview, Valliday gave a 'no comment' response but did accept, when shown CCTV footage from Madisons, that he was the male caught on camera.
He subsequently pleaded guilty to four offences relating to the incident, including stealing the hotel key cards, breaking into the student accommodation and assaulting the security guard.
Mr Farrell said the Crown accepted that during the burglary at the student premises "at no stage" did Valliday either brandish the knife or threaten anyone with it, but rather he had it for the purpose of burglary.
The prosecutor also accepted there was "no confrontation" between Valliday and the student who was woken by the intruder.
Defence barrister Declan Quinn reiterated Valliday did not threaten anyone in what he said must have been a frightening experience for those involved.
Pointing out that the knife in question was not brought to the scene by Valliday, Mr Quinn said his client was "extremely intoxicated" on prescription drugs that were not prescribed to him, was not thinking rationally and involved himself in an "opportunistic" burglary. Mr Quinn spoke of Valliday's remorse, saying he had been asked to apologise to Valliday's victims.
The defence barrister added: "The only tenure of the offending was to obtain property to sell and exchange for more 'blues' (Diazepam)."