Four Belfast bonfire builders fined for pallet thefts
Four east Belfast bonfire builders who admitted stealing blue pallets for their local pyre have each been slapped with £75 fines.
Standing side by side in the dock at Newtownards Magistrates Court on Friday were 18-year-old Aby Massey, Chris Hoy, 22, Ryan McBlain, 20, and 19-year-old George Macauley-McKinney.
The four unemployed men each pleaded guilty to a single count of stealing £60 worth of pallets from Consumable Products Ltd on the Newtownards Road on March 10 this year.
Hoy, from Knockwood Grove, also admitted a further offence of going equipped for theft with a silver Citroen van.
A prosecuting lawyer told the court how cops were called to the business premises in the early hours of March 10 after men were spotted loading blue wooden pallets into Hoy’s van.
When officers arrived at the scene, the van was already “half full” of pallets and they arrested Hoy. The lawyer said the other three defendants were found hiding under bushes in a nearby garden.
Arrested and interviewed only Macauley-McKinney, from Roslyn Street, opted to answer police questions and he admitted they had been collecting pallets “all day” which were to be burnt on a bonfire on the Beersbridge Road.
Hoy and Massey, from Isoline Street and McBlain, from Rowland Way, all gave ‘no comment’ interviews.
Defence lawyers for the four said while it appeared at first glance to be a burglary gang targeting commercial premises, it was in actual fact “unsophisticated...and fairly amateurish.”
As well as the £75 fine and giving Hoy a 12 month conditional discharge for going equipped, District Judge Des Perry also imposed a £15 offender levy for each man and allowed them four months to pay.
He advised the four however: “Next year, get your pallets legally.”