A convicted armed robber with over 190 convictions was yesterday handed a suspended sentence for allowing his van to be used after a cash-in-transit hold-up.
Cecil Stephen Walsh (51), of Breton Park, Lisburn, pleaded guilty to a charge of encouraging or assisting an offence of theft or handling stolen goods linked to the robbery.
Belfast Crown Court heard that the charge related to the robbery of a G4S cash-in-transit truck almost six years ago. A total of £25,000 was taken from a cash box. A prosecution lawyer said a G4S guard was robbed at the Centra store on Belfast's Ormeau Road on Sunday, September 8, 2012.
Judge Geoffrey Miller QC heard that Walsh's co-accused, Patrick McMahon, was later jailed for 10 years after he admitted the robbery.
The court was told that following the robbery, Walsh's Volkswagen Caddy van was seen by police on the Ravenhill Road in south Belfast, and at Glenview Street and Torrens Avenue in north Belfast.
On September 11, 2012, Walsh was arrested after he was seen driving the Caddy van and his mobile phone was seized which revealed he had been in contact with McMahon.
"By his plea of guilty," said the prosecutor, "this defendant accepts that he assumed or believed that the handling stolen goods or theft was to take place by McMahon."
The court was told that as a result of Walsh's "significant criminal record", the prosecution was applying for the father-of-three to be made the subject of a Serious Crime Prevention Order (SCPO) and also the forfeiture of his van.
Defence counsel Martin O'Rourke QC said Walsh had a substantial criminal record which he said was mostly made up of road traffic offences and two convictions for robbery. He told the court that Walsh had not come to the attention of police since the 2012 incident, and was now working as a taxi driver.
Judge Geoffrey Miller was told Walsh came before the court with 194 previous convictions, the first of which was when he was 13. His record included 134 road traffic convictions, 26 for fraud offences and two for robbery, the last being in 2007 when he received an 11-year sentence for robbery and was released on licence in November 2010.
"The fact that he was in breach of his licence at the time of this offence is an aggravating factor," the court was told.
The judge said he would take into account that five and a half years had passed since the offence was committed, and would allow Walsh a 30% discount for his guilty plea.
"The sentence of the court is one of 28 months. Given the length of time since the offence was committed, I will suspend that sentence for a period of three years."
Judge Miller refused to make Walsh the subject of an SCPO but did grant the forfeiture of the VW Caddy van.