Christmas Eve till thief was attacked by crowd

Laganside Courts in Belfast City centre  Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Laganside Courts in Belfast City centre Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A 28-year-old Belfast man who was beaten by a crowd moments after he snatched a till from a north Belfast newsagent’s has been handed a four-year sentence.

Belfast Crown Court heard that despite just stealing a till containing around £130, Patrick Anthony John McGurk was “grateful” for the intervention of police, who arrived at the scene while he was being subjected to a group attack.

McGurk, from Albert Street, will spend two years of his sentence in prison, with the remaining two years spent on licence upon his release.

He pleaded guilty to both robbing the newsagent’s and of causing criminal damage to the till he stole on Christmas Eve, 2014.

Crown prosecutor Gareth Purvis told the court McGurk was one of two men who entered the newsagent’s at around 6.45pm.

McGurk’s accomplice produced a hammer before both men grabbed a till each. McGurk ripped the lead from the till before fleeing with it in his arms.

Whilst this was occurring his co-accused – who was not before the court – was confronted by two males, one of whom he struck with the hammer.

As McGurk was running up the street carrying the till, he was apprehended by members of the public, who proceeded to attack him which resulted in him sustaining injuries which required hospital treatment.

Defence barrister Luke Curran told Judge McCaffrey that while his client admitted the offences, he was not armed with a weapon, and neither threatened nor attacked anyone.

Mr Curran also revealed that McGurk was only aware that his accomplice was armed when he produced the hammer in the shop.

He described his client as a “secondary party” who impulsively decided to take part in a snatch and run.

Passing sentence, Judge McCaffrey said that while she accepted McGurk was not armed and didn’t hurt anyone, he nonetheless continued with the enterprise after he became aware of the presence of the hammer.