Ballymena man McPeake who harboured stolen parrot avoids prison
A man who admitted dishonestly receiving a stolen parrot called Barney, which he was keeping in a "quasi-Noah's Ark" in a Co Antrim housing estate, has avoided being caged himself.
Darren McPeake (32), an unemployed father-of-three from Lanntara, Ballymena, appeared at the town's magistrates' court yesterday and was given a six-month jail term, suspended for two years.
He had previously pleaded guilty to a charge of dishonestly receiving stolen goods, which included the parrot, six tortoises, five birds, a python and a chameleon in December last year.
The court heard no one has been made amenable for a break-in at Ladysmith Pet Supplies. A prosecutor said animals worth over £2,100 were stolen, along with £100 in cash.
When the animals, including African Grey parrot Barney, were found at McPeake's home, he was also in possession of cannabis and Diazepam.
The prosecutor said he indicated during a police interview that he was not involved in the actual break-in but was asked to "keep the animals" for others.
Defence barrister Stephen Law told the court: "It was somewhat strange that there was a quasi-Noah's Ark in Lanntara." Mr Law said at the time the defendant was misusing cannabis and Diazepam and that may have been why he was "harbouring" the animals.
Mr Law added: "Animal lovers were outraged at this offending but he was the public face of it rather than others who inflicted damage at the store."
The court heard McPeake had 62 previous convictions but the defendant claimed three of those were a "misprint".
District Judge Peter King said: "The only reason you are not going to prison is because you had a secondary role in this escapade."
The judge said if McPeake had been directly involved in the break-in he would have been jailed.
Outside court, McPeake was asked if he had a message for the public and said he was "sorry" and that he "should never have got involved".