A serial thief who claims he stole a £1 pack of sweets because he was starving narrowly avoid jail today.
Michael McNally received a one-month suspended prison sentence for taking a box of Poppets from a Poundworld store in what his lawyer claimed was "an act of desperation".
The 27-year-old defendant was arrested outside the shop at the Cityside Retail Park in north Belfast on Thursday.
Staff had already taken two packets of Ferrero Rocher chocolates from him before he made his exit.
Appearing before Belfast Magistrates' Court today McNally, of Hillman Street in the city, admitted charges of theft and attempted theft.
His latest offences join a list of more than 200 previous convictions, including 113 for theft.
But defence solicitor Pearse MacDermott argued that he should not be sent to jail for the new crimes.
"He was starving, he had no money and he stole a £1 pack of Poppets," Mr MacDermott told the court.
"This was simply an act of desperation by a young man with no food."
The lawyer claimed the night McNally spent in custody following his arrest was enough punishment.
District Judge Fiona Bagnall replied: "He had no food yet he goes and takes sweets as opposed to something a bit more nutritional."
However, she accepted the point made by the defence.
"I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt," Judge Bagnall decided.
"There will be one month (in prison) which I'm going to suspend for six months."
As sentence was passed an animated McNally made shadow-boxing gestures towards a prison guard standing alongside him in the dock.
Clearly delighted by the outcome, he left the courtroom declaring: "I'm away for a smoke."