Two men who carried out three 'creeper' burglaries at properties in south Belfast were jailed yesterday by a judge who told them their lifestyle of drinking, taking drugs and offending "is over".
Sean Patrick Stephen McCluskey (24) and Caoimhan Black (20) each admitted three early-morning break-ins in the Newtownbreda area on March 10 last year.
During one of the break-ins, the intruders were confronted by the householder, who was woken from his sleep by noises in his living room.
Following this confrontation, they fled.
Both McCluskey, from Falls Road and Black, whose address was given as Hydebank YOC, were handed a 28-month sentence which will be divided between 14 months detention and 14 months on licence.
Jailing the pair at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Neil Rafferty QC warned that the lifestyles they led "ends today".
Telling both men "this really is your last chance," the judge warned that further offending will lead to "longer and longer sentences".
Before he sent the two men to jail, Judge Rafferty was told by Crown prosecutor James Johnston that three houses were broken into and that when McCluskey and Black were arrested later that day, they were both in possession of items taken from the burglaries.
Car keys for a Volkswagen Passat were stolen during one of the break-ins, and the vehicle was driven a short distance from the house.
Mr Johnston said that whilst there was a confrontation with a male occupant during one break-in, the female resident of another property heard noises downstairs and was so frightened that she hid in her bathroom until police arrived.
The prosecutor also revealed both men have criminal records, with Black's being the more substantial of the two.
Barrister Declan Quinn, representing McCluskey, said that prior to the incidents his client had consumed "a significant amount of tablets", with the offending occurring "at a time in his life when he was off the rails".
Saying McCluskey had expressed genuine shame and regret about his involvement, Mr Quinn said there was "no evidence of specific targeting" of the properties, and that no weapons or violence was used.
Mr Quinn also revealed that whilst in custody, McCluskey has been seeking assistance for mental health issues.
Jonathan O'Connor, the barrister representing Black, also spoke of his client's time in custody which has included participation in courses such as barbering and cooking.
Mr O'Connor said Black has acknowledged his offending was linked to substance abuse but pointed out his client passed a recent drugs test.
During the sentencing, Judge Rafferty spoke of the impact creeper burglaries have on those whose houses are broken, and said victims of such crimes are entitled to protection from the courts.