Burglar told to pay £1,000 to elderly woman ‘living in fear’ after break-in
A pensioner is “living in fear” after a sneak thief broke into the Co Antrim sheltered housing accommodation where she lives and stole £360 from her handbag, a court has heard.
Samuel Lee Chad McIlroy (31), of Buskin Way, Coleraine, yesterday pleaded guilty to burglary.
As well as receiving a suspended jail term for what was his first offence, he was also ordered to pay £1,000 compensation to the 74-year-old vulnerable woman from Portrush.
A prosecutor told Coleraine Magistrates Court that the victim had been on a night out and the next morning she found her kitchen window open.
Later, when she went to go grocery shopping, she discovered £360 was missing from her handbag.
Police found fingerprints on the window frame, which were identified as McIlroy’s.
During a PSNI interview McIlroy said he had “no recollection” of the night the offence happened last October but accepted it was he who carried out the crime. He said during that period he was drinking heavily. He apologised and offered to pay the money back.
A defence lawyer said the offence was “totally out of character”. She said McIlroy, who is father to a young child, had gone “off the rails” as a result of “very severe personal difficulties”.
The solicitor added: “He is totally ashamed of himself, so ashamed that he hasn’t mentioned this to his own family.”
The lawyer said McIlroy looked after his own elderly grandmother and couldn’t believe what he had done.
The defence said full restitution for the stolen money had been brought to court.
After reading a victim impact statement, Deputy District Judge Paul Conway said burglaries were “reprehensible” and an “invasion of privacy”.
Whenever the injured party was an elderly lady living on her own, however, “it’s far beyond the word reprehensible”.
The judge said the victim was “vulnerable” and told the defendant: “She is now living in fear because of the invasion which you perpetrated on her.”
He said if the victim had been present in the property at the time of the break-in, or if McIlroy had a previous record, he would have jailed him immediately.
The judge said he took into account the defendant’s personal situation and said it would do “more harm than good” if he was sent to prison, although he stressed that did not detract from the seriousness of the offence.
Imposing a six-month jail term, suspended for a year, the judge told McIlroy that if he came back to court in that period he would go to prison.
The judge added that the victim had been “left in a very anxious state, and for that you will give her compensation”.
Judge Conway ordered McIlroy to pay his victim £1,000.