Supermarket thief stole games with magnetic hook

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A thief who repeatedly raided a supermarket for Xbox games has suffered urges to steal for years, a court has heard.

Philip Armstrong used a magnetic hook device to open security alarms on the boxes at a Tesco store in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim.

The 31-year-old pleaded guilty to three charges of theft and three counts of going equipped for theft.

Ordering him to complete 120 hours community service, the judge said: “Not everybody has the knowledge to bypass supermarket security systems.”

Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard Armstrong, of Windsor Crescent in Whitehead, stole Xbox games worth £48 each on three different dates in January and February this year.

A prosecutor said he was able to unlock them by removing security tagging with a metal poster hook.

“He stated that he had suffered from urges to steal for a number of years,” she added.

Defence counsel said Armstrong has surrendered the device and returned the games.

The court also heard that the accused, who works nights as a cleaner, is due to start an IT course at Queen’s University in Belfast.

Passing sentence, Deputy District Judge Philip Mateer noted Armstrong’s record for thefts stretches back more than a decade.

Despite emphasising the sophistication of his latest offences, Mr Mateer acknowledged the accused is in employment.

The judge decided to impose a community service order rather than sending him to jail.

But he warned: “It would be absolutely certain if you come back before the court again that’s where you will be going.”

An order was also made for destruction of the magnetic device used in the thefts.