Judge seeks ‘iron fist’ response to armed burglaries
An “iron fist” policy is required for any armed burglars who terrorise people in their homes, a High Court judge has declared.
Mr Justice McLaughlin set out his zero-tolerance approach after hearing claims that a youth brandishing a knife confronted a woman in her own bedroom.
He described the alleged break-in at a south Belfast address in the middle of the night as “a horror story”.
It also emerged during a bail application that the 17-year-old suspect, who cannot be identified, previously witnessed his father's violent murder in an unrelated case.
The accused denies charges of aggravated burglary with intent and possession of cocaine and diazepam drugs. He was refused bail in order to protect the public from any further offending.
The youth allegedly forced his way into the house on Charleville Avenue, where the woman lives with her two young daughters, early on January 12.
A Crown lawyer claimed he made his way into her bedroom armed with a kitchen knife taken from downstairs and demanded money. He then left, stealing an iPod and laptop computer, according to the prosecution.
Police located the suspect in a nearby garden with the MP3 player and suspected drugs on him, the court heard. The computer was recovered a short distance away.
He denied any knowledge of the break-in and claimed to have bought the iPod for £20.
Defence counsel Richard McConkey also argued that the aggravated burglary charge could not be sustained because the knife was allegedly taken inside the property.
But Mr Justice McLaughlin made clear that anyone involved in such armed raids must be stopped “once and for all”.
The judge said: “If the law isn't going to use the iron fist for this kind of thing we don't live in an ordered, democratic society. Society falls apart and people get away with it.”
Mr Justice McLaughlin acknowledged that the accused had himself watched his own father being killed.
No further details of that murder can be reported to protect the teenager's identity.
The judge added: “I have to say, I would have done any reasonable thing I could to have facilitated bail, given what I know happened and what he witnessed.
“But there are other people to consider here and he will have to pay the price for that. He is not appropriate for bail in the meantime,” the judge said.