West Belfast woman jailed on consecutive days for different offences

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A west Belfast woman has been handed a three-month jail term after she admitted stealing personal documentation belonging to residents of a care home where she worked for over 18 years.

Maria Morelli appeared at Belfast Crown Court where she pleaded guilty to a single charge of theft.

On Monday both Morelli and her partner Billy Byrne were jailed for blackmailing a fireman over a year-long period during which between £15,000 and £21,000 was handed over to the couple by the “vulnerable” victim.

On Tuesday the 46-year old, from Ross Mill Avenue, was back in court where she admitted stealing documents from residents of the St John of God Association at Dympna House on dates between April 1994 and December 2012.

The court heard that the offending came to light when police searched Morelli’s house regarding the blackmail. During the search, various documents bearing information such as bank account details and social security numbers belonging to long-term residents in the care home were located.

Prosecuting barrister Gareth Purvis revealed Morelli worked in the care home for 18 and a half years. He also revealed that in her position, she would not have had access to this personal information.

When she was arrested and questioned about the documents, she told police she was studying for an NCQ Level 3 qualification and that she needed the information to assist her in the preparation of revision for the exam.

However, Mr Purvis told the court: “This is not accepted.”

He also revealed that while this was a breach of trust on Morelli’s part, she did not profit or gain financially in any way.

Defence barrister Luke Curran told Her Honour Judge McCaffrey that prior to this offence Morelli had “worked without issue for 18 years, providing care and assistance” to residents in the care home.

Mr Curran also pointed out the documents themselves had no value and there was no financial loss to anyone.

He said his client accepted “they should not have left the care home”, adding Morelli acknowledges “she was not allowed to take them home”.

Passing sentence, Judge McCaffrey told Morelli: “It beggars belief why you thought it was appropriate to take these personal documents home with you.”

Saying she accepted the documents were not used in any way to attempt to “gain profit of money”, Judge McCaffrey handed Morelli a three-month sentence. This will run concurrent to the sentence of three years and four months which was imposed on Monday for blackmailing the fireman.