Belfast judge vows to jail anyone who robs small shops or businesses
A Crown Court judge issued a stark warning on Monday that anyone who robbed small shops or businesses should expect "immediate imprisonment."
Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland spoke as he sent two men who stole money from the till of a south Belfast coffee shop to prison.
William John Mulholland and Adam Coleman appeared at Belfast Crown Court where they each admitted a single charge arising from the incident, which occurred at the Community Cafe on University Street last summer.
Mulholland (36) from Westland Way in Belfast was handed a 16-month sentence for theft, while his 31-year old co-accused, from Saul Street in Downpatrick, was sentenced to two years for robbery.
Both men were told they would spend half their terms in prison, followed by the same period on licence when they are released.
A Crown prosecutor said the pair targeted the coffee shop around tea-time on July 14 last year. At 6.15pm, the pair were seen outside a local hostel. Five minutes later they were captured on CCTV talking to a woman, and Mulholland was seen taking a grey hoodie from her.
The pair were then seen walking down an alleyway before re-appearing a few minutes later with their hoods up and their faces covered.
They then entered the cafe, and the prosecutor said there was "some shouting about giving them the money." Both men then grabbed money from the till before fleeing with around £100.
While Mulholland was arrested the following day, Coleman was apprehended on July 20. Mulholland admitted he had put his hand in the till and taken around £50. He also told police he thought what he did was wrong, and that he was sorry.
When he was interviewed, Coleman accepted both grabbing money from the till, and that his behaviour would have frightened staff.
The prosecutor told the court Mulholland had 47 previous convictions, while at the time of last summer's incident, Coleman had a clear criminal record. She also said: "Both defendants seem to have issues with drink and drugs."
A barrister acting for Mulholland said his client was diagnosed with schizophrenia, was "vulnerable to coercion", and often "gets himself into trouble under the guidance of others".
The barrister also spoke of difficulties in Mulholland's life which included little family support, addiction issues and living a "hand to mouth, nomadic, homeless existence".
Coleman's barrister said his client was "pretty heavily intoxicated at the time of the offence", and occurred during a period when his life was "in freefall", depressed and paranoid.
Pointing out the offence "completely out of character", the defence counsel also spoke of Coleman's alcohol addiction.
Sending both men to prison, Judge McFarland warned that targeting small businesses would result in "immediate custody."
Belfast Telegraph Digital