Belfast woman avoids jail after robbing pensioner on shopping trip
A mother-of-three has avoided jail for the "despicable" theft of cash from an 84-year-old woman out on a shopping trip in Belfast.
Tina Marley took the pensioner's purse and then stole £50 from it before handing it in and pretending to have found it.
The 37-year-old, of Horn Drive in the city, was given a four-month suspended jail term after a judge heard she has since repaid the cash and written a letter of apology to her victim.
Belfast Magistrates' Court heard she carried out the scam at Boots on Donegall Place in January this year.
Prosecutor Stephanie Boyd said Marley lifted the elderly lady's purse out of her bag without her realising what had happened.
She then returned it to staff, saying she had discovered it in the store.
"When the lady collected her purse and wanted to thank whoever had found it, she realised £50 was missing from it," Mrs Boyd told the court.
"Security checks discovered the defendant had removed the purse rather than having found it on the ground."
Defence solicitor Dennis Boyd stressed Marley's remorse, disclosing how she wrote to the pensioner to express regret at her actions.
"She acknowledges it was a very despicable thing to have done," the lawyer added.
Desribing the offence as having crossed the custody threshold, District Judge Amanda Henderson said: "This was an extremely vulnerable lady."
But she decided not to send Marley to prison after taking into account her guilty plea to the theft, apology and troubled background.
Suspending the four-month term for a year, Mrs Henderson told her: "It's to your credit, with the problems you have had and the addiction issues you have faced as a result of personal circumstances, that your record is negligible."
Belfast Telegraph Digital