Belfast Telegraph

Teenager who sought imprisonment to avoid rough sleeping jailed for stealing alcohol

The Belfast teenager stole four bottles of spirits and a bottle of Buckfast wine worth a total of £136
The Belfast teenager stole four bottles of spirits and a bottle of Buckfast wine worth a total of £136

By Alan Erwin

A homeless teenager who previously sought imprisonment to avoid sleeping in doorways has been jailed for stealing alcohol.

James Kelly received a three-month sentence after he admitted taking brandy and whiskey during repeated raids on the same store.

The 19-year-old, of no fixed abode, also pleaded guilty to common assault, indecent behaviour and criminal damage linked to his subsequent arrest at a Belfast hostel.

The city's Magistrates Court heard Kelly carried out three separate thefts at a Eurospar in Dromore, Co Down - all on August 27.

He stole four bottles of spirits and a bottle of Buckfast wine worth a total of £136.

Kelly then disclosed the thefts to police after they were called to the Centenary House hostel on Wednesday.

Prosecutors said he had thrown a bag of belongings at a member of staff before exiting and urinating against the front door of the shelter.

He also spat inside a police vehicle following his arrest.

Defence solicitor Norman Shannon told the court Kelly has struggled since leaving the care system and doesn't even have a form of identification to obtain benefits.

"He's a person who previously asked me to get him time in the YOC (Young Offenders' Centre)," the lawyer said.

"He was fed up living in a homeless situation, drifting from one friend's house to another and sometimes sleeping in doorways in the city centre."

Citing his client's lengthy record, including a suspended sentence imposed in September, he accepted that a jail sentence was now inevitable.

Judge Philip Mateer QC pointed out that the courts get criticised for handing down prison terms in such cases without a full explanation of the background circumstances.

However, Mr Shannon accepted no alternative options were available.

Jailing Kelly for a total of three months, Mr Mateer acknowledged his "sad history" but added: "The courts have done everything they can."

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