Belfast Telegraph

Thief who stole cash from charity boxes during crime spree is jailed

By Ashleigh McDonald

A 32-year-old heroin addict who has spent half his life in custody has been handed another prison sentence for a spate of charity box and tip jar thefts from Northern Ireland businesses.

Vincent Martin Joseph Dunn - who started taking drugs when he was 12 - was handed a sentence of four years and four months at court yesterday.

Dunne, of no fixed abode, was informed by a judge that he will spend half the sentence behind bars, with the remainder on supervised licence when he is released.

Prosecuting barrister Philip Henry told Belfast Crown Court that Dunn admitted 10 offences arising from a five-month crime spree in Belfast last year.

The offences include seven counts of theft as well as possessing a knife in a public place.

Dunn's first offence was committed on July 28 last year.

On that occasion he and another man stole two mobile phones from a taxi office on the Donegall Road.

After taking the phones, the pair were chased by a member of staff.

Dunn returned to the taxi office later to protest his innocence and banged on the window with a knife in his hand.

On September 29 he stole a charity box from a Belfast branch of Ulster Bank.

He was seen by a member of staff looking at brochures before taking the Action Cancer box containing around £30.

On November 3, he stole a tip jar from Starbucks on Botanic Avenue, and on this occasion he carried out the theft after being served.

Eight days later, he stole a charity box from the Spar on the Ravenhill Road.

And on November 14, he took a charity box from the Centra on the Ormeau Road.

On the same date, Dunn targeted Polita, a Polish coffee shop on the Ravenhill Road, where he stole a purse and wallet from the staff area.

On November 25, he took a tip jar containing around £80 The French Village cafe on Botanic Avenue.

In addition, he was charged with and admitted trying to steal a charity box from the Spar on the Ravenhill Road on November 11.

He appeared in court with 120 previous convictions on his criminal record.

Defence barrister Luke Curran told Judge Geoffrey Miller QC that his client was a heroin addict who began using drugs since he was 12.

Revealing that Dunn was trying to address his addiction, and has passed several drug tests while he was on remand, Mr Curran said Dunn was "deeply ashamed" by his behaviour last year.

He said the theft reflected Dunn's "desperation to get money for a fix".

Mr Curran also revealed that Dunn was keen to get his life on track for the sake of his young daughter.

Judge Miller branded Dunn's offending during the crime spree as "mean spirited".

He noted that aged 32, Dunn has spent 16 years - "literally half his life" - in custody.

He also cited Dunn's drug addiction as a constant feature in his life.

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