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Jail warning to serial thief who abused staff over shoplifter alert

By Staff Reporter

A prolific thief swore at staff in a sports shop on Christmas Eve after he heard an announcement warning of his presence, a court heard yesterday.

Sherman Wright told a duty manager in the store in Ballymena's Fairhill Centre: "F*** you, do you think I'm a f****** shoplifter? I have a university degree, I'm f****** smarter than the lot of you."

Previously Wright, of Devenagh Way in the town, pleaded guilty to a charge of common assault and was due to be sentenced.

The court heard that the accused - who has 108 convictions and had six suspended sentences hanging over him - was verbally abusive to a female worker at a till before the manager intervened. The prosecutor alleged Wright had tripped her as she went to get security staff.

Defence solicitor John McAtamney said the claim that there was a tripping incident caused by his client was not accepted. He said the common assault was "purely verbal" and Wright knew the language used was "unacceptable".

Mr McAtamney said at the time of the incident Wright was home from university in Scotland and had gone out to buy Christmas presents for family members.

District Judge Nigel Broderick noted Wright was in breach of six suspended sentences and said the defendant's "very foolish behaviour has put his liberty in danger".

Mr McAtamney said an announcement had been made in the store that a "well-known shoplifter" was present and Wright could hear his name being mentioned in a "radio communication" and "overreacted".

The defence solicitor said his client ended up spending the early hours of Christmas Day in a holding cell at Antrim police station.

Mr McAtamney said it was a "one-off" incident since the defendant had "turned his life around" and was doing a degree course.

However, Judge Broderick told Wright: "There is every reason why I should send you to prison today.

"You were given a number of suspended sentences.

"Your behaviour was totally unacceptable".

The judge said the only "glimmer of hope" was the university course and he agreed to a defence suggestion to defer sentencing to see if Wright could stay out of trouble.

Adjourning sentencing until December, the judge warned Wright: "If you re-offend I will have no hesitation in sending you to prison."

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