A 20-year-old burglar, who witnessed his dad being stabbed to death as a youngster, was told yesterday to "grow up" or face possible longer prison sentences.
Fionbar McMahon, who as a six-year-old saw his father Gerard Devlin being killed, was given the warning by Judge Neil Rafferty QC, who sentenced him to a total of 26 months for the "particularly nasty burglary" of a vulnerable pensioner.
The Belfast Crown Court judge said that as a child McMahon had one of the "most grotesque, adverse starts in life", and although not an excuse it was a possible explanation for his offending lifestyle.
However, Judge Rafferty told McMahon, with 55 previous convictions, including 12 for burglary, he had to choose between what he saw and happened to him as a child, something he will carry for the rest of his life, "or choose to become the second victim of what happened that day".
Judge Rafferty then warned McMahon the "one thing I can promise" is that if he kept going down that road playing the victim "the sentences you will get will be longer and longer and longer and longer".
He told McMahon, who agreed with him, to "grow up... you either take life with both hands or just flitter it away".
Earlier prosecution counsel Philip Henry told the court that when McMahon burgled the home of a 67-year-old man with mobility problems on February 28 this year he was on bail and in breach of two suspended sentences.
He added that McMahon, whose fingerprints were found at the scene, fled the house with cash, a watch and other items after being confronted and shouted at by his vulnerable victim, who was left very shaken.
However, as he made good his escape he also inadvertently damaged the pensioner's stair lift.
Mr Henry said that when arrested two months later McMahon had mainly a no comment interview with police, but at the end of it said: "I can't remember doing any of this, but if it was me, I sincerely apologise."
Defence counsel Martin Morgan said that McMahon had an unenviable and unimaginably horrific and tragic start in life, and although it was no excuse for his subsequent behaviour, it had made life for him more difficult.
"No doubt, this young man has gone off the rails badly," he added.
"While in detention he was making positive changes to his life, particularly since becoming a young father himself."
Mr Morgan said that McMahon had neither pre-planned or targeted his elderly and vulnerable victim, and once challenged had quickly extricated himself from the scene, and had expressed and shown a "sense of remorse for the distress he has caused".
McMahon, whose address was given as care of Hydebank Young Offenders' Centre, will serve 13 months in custody followed by 13 months on supervised licensed parole.