Belfast Telegraph

Belfast man who stole taxi driver's phone is jailed

Whelan said he had no memory of carrying out the theft
Whelan said he had no memory of carrying out the theft

A man who stole a taxi driver's phone 48 hours after surviving a suspected gun attack in Northern Ireland has been jailed for 10 months.

Lee Whelan claimed he had no memory of carrying out the theft on Tuesday, October 22,  as he exited a cab in north Belfast.

But a district judge today rejected suggestions that the 23-year-old could be given a chance on a substance misuse initiative because of his addiction to drugs.

Fiona Bagnall insisted: "It's not a ticket to be allowed to re-offend."

Whelan, of Duncairn Parade in the city, admitted the theft of an iPhone X valued at £500, and making off without paying an £8 fare.

Belfast Magistrates' Court heard had been picked up and taken to a house in the Antrim Road area.

He snatched the phone, got out and ran off into a nearby house without offering any payment.

Police called to the scene found the stolen item on Whelan, according to the prosecution.

Defence solicitor Ciaran Toner said: "He has absolutely no recollection of this incident."

The lawyer submitted that his client had been badly shaken by an incident last weekend.

"Mr Whelan was shot at on Sunday night and then fell into a fence trying to escape," he said.

"Police are trying to get to the bottom of that, but he sustained serious leg injuries.

"Whatever happened on Sunday seems to have really rocked him."

Mr Toner argued that it formed part of a pattern of drug-fuelled self-destructive behaviour.

In a previous incident Whelan had to be resuscitated after being found in a house, the court was told.

"Unfortunutely his girlfriend died; they were both addicted to drugs," the solicitor added.

Despite acknowledging the dependency issues, Mrs Bagnall stressed: "It does not give any excuse for taking a man's phone and making off without payment."

Imposing six months imprisonment, she also ordered Whelan to serve a further four months from an earlier suspended sentence for a similar offence.

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