Pair who robbed UTV's Ken Reid while he was sedated in hospital are jailed
Two men who burgled three patients' hospital rooms - including that of UTV journalist Ken Reid who was under "heavy sedation" - have been jailed for a total of five and a half years.
Jailing 23-year-old Gareth Cotter for three years and his accomplice Gerard Madden (22) for two a half years at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Gordon Kerr QC told them the thefts had been "extremely mean" and "cannot be tolerated".
"People who go to hospital are vulnerable and they are entitled to the protection that the courts can give them," declared the judge.
Cotter, from the Glenalina Road and Madden, from Aspen Park in Dunmurry had each pleaded guilty to three counts of burglary in side rooms on ward 5A in the Royal Victoria Hospital on October 15 last year.
Prosecuting lawyer Gary McCrudden told the court that in the early hours of that morning Audrey Wallace, an elderly patient, was wakened from her sleep by a man standing beside her bed drinking from a bottle and realised that her mobile phone was missing from her bedside locker.
She challenged the pair who handed her phone back before walking out through the ward door.
But a nurse alerted security personnel who stopped the burglars on the fourth floor.
Asked to account for themselves, they told guards they were out for a "dander" but Mr McCrudden's enquiries and a search revealed two other patients had belongings stolen from their rooms as well.
They had stolen a watch, mobile phone and headphones belonging to senior UTV journalist Ken Reid who was described as being "heavily sedated" at the time of the theft, as well as a mobile phone and handbag belonging to Christina Hayes.
The lawyer said that thankfully, all of the stolen property was returned to their rightful owners but that Mrs Wallace had been left particularly traumatised by the incident.
Mr McCrudden told the court that both men had previous convictions for dishonesty type offences and revealed that Cotter had only been released from prison four days beforehand while Madden was in court the very next day for drugs offences.
Lawyers for the pair conceded the thefts were "mean-spirited" but that each man had expressed deep felt, genuine remorse and wanted to express their apologies to their victims.
Ordering Madden to serve nine months in jail and Cotter a year, with the rest of their sentences to be spent on supervised licence conditions, Judge Kerr said they both had their issues to tackle and that he hoped they would address their problems.
Belfast Telegraph Digital