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Burglars who raided elderly Antrim couple sentenced by judge over a video link

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Three men who burgled the Co Antrim home of an elderly couple have been sentenced.

Three men who burgled the Co Antrim home of an elderly couple have been sentenced.

Three men who burgled the Co Antrim home of an elderly couple have been sentenced.

Three men who burgled the Co Antrim home of an elderly couple have been sentenced.

The trio were given suspended prison terms in one of the first Crown Court cases to be dealt with remotely during the Covid-19 crisis.

Sentencing the three, who are all originally from Slovakia, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said: "These are unusual times requiring a novel approach to proceedings, designed to expedite cases requiring an urgent hearing.

"It is important to stress, however, that the first duty of the court is to ensure that the spirit of the law is observed, albeit not exactly to the letter. Justice must both be done and seen to be done."

Sentences were issued to Mikulas Danco (45) and his 18-year-old son Robert Grulyo, alongside 27-year-old co-accused Edward Nemet. All three have addresses at Fingal Street in Belfast.

All admitted burgling the Ballymoney home of an elderly couple on July 22 last year and stealing jewellery, watches and gift vouchers from them.

The defendants attended the remote hearing via video-link from Maghaberry and Hydebank, while their legal representatives appeared via video conferencing.

Summing up the Crown case against the men, Judge Miller said that all three "deliberately targeted an elderly couple and used subterfuge to distract them".

The judge said that father and son Danco and Grulyo left Nemet in the car. Grulyo - who Belfast Crown Court heard had a "strong command of English" - spoke to the couple while his father Danco carried out the burglary.

The incident occurred during the day, the police were alerted and all three were quickly apprehended.

Judge Miller said that the impact on the elderly couple has been "significant". He also noted that while this was a deliberate act against an elderly couple, it was unsophisticated and there was no physical violence used.

All three defendants have been on remand since their arrest last July.

Judge Miller said: "In the normal run of things the court would require the preparation of pre-sentence reports before sentencing. However, these are not normal times.

"The Probation Board, like so many other bodies, is under immense pressure."

The judge noted that since their arrest last summer all three have served eight-and-a-half months in custody, which is the equivalent of a 17-month prison sentence.

Judge Miller said: "It's against this backdrop that counsel for each defendant has requested the court to proceed to sentence without delay."

The judge also noted that all three men pleaded guilty to burglary, and said "during this pandemic... credit will be given for pleas".

Judge Miller said the custody threshold had been passed. He took a starting point of two years, and said he was giving a third reduction for pleas - which left a sentence of 16 months. The judge said taking into account the coronavirus crisis and the time spent on remand, he would give all three an eight-month sentence, which was suspended for two years.

Danco, Grulyo and Nemet were all warned they could face further jail time if they carried out any offences in the next two years.

Belfast Telegraph