A 19-year old asylum seeker who burgled eight houses in Belfast whilst the residents slept was handed a three-year sentence today (Tuesday).
Medoune Diakhate arrived in the United Kingdom in 2017 after leaving his native Gambia.
In a journey that Belfast Crown Court heard was “hazardous”, Diakhate travelled via Sengal and Morocco, he was rescued from a small boat by the authorities and spent a period in a camp in France before coming to the UK.
Judge Neil Rafferty QC said that while Diakhate’s journey “is something that I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for on a human level”, he also branded domestic burglaries as “very serious offences.”
Before passing sentence, Judge Rafferty was told that Diakhate - whose address was given as University Street in Belfast - admitted nine offences committed between June and October last year - namely eight burglaries and one charge of resisting arrest.
Crown barrister Robin Steer said all the break-ins were at homes in Belfast, most of which were carried out in the early morning when the occupants were asleep.
Whilst some of the householders were woken during the break-ins, others realised they had been targeted when they woke to find their homes broken into a property stolen.
The prosecutor said that after targeting his sixth property at Osborne Drive on August 20 last year, Diakhate was disturbed by the householder and fled out the front door.
The occupant gave a description to police, and after Diakhate was seen getting into a taxi, the vehicle was later stopped by police. Diakhate initially refused to get out of the car, and was arrested and subsequently bailed.
Despite this, Diakhate carried out two further burglaries - the last of which was committed on October 30, 2018.
Mr Steer concluded the Crown’s case by saying there was “no force or threats” by Diakhate, who came before the court with a clear record.
A defence barrister described his client’s offending as “somewhat amateurish” and revealed the motivation was to get money to fund his gambling habit.
Saying that some of the items stolen were returned to the owners, the barrister said Diakhate was an “isolated figure” who was “enticed into the web of gambling.”
Defence counsel also revealed Diakhate’s application for asylum was refused and an appeal will be heard next year.
The barrister added: “He wishes to apologise to the people he burgled. He realised what he did was wrong.”
Handing Diakhate a three-year sentence, Judge Rafferty said: “Domestic burglaries are an invasion of householders security, they are an invasion of privacy and they involve a degree of violation.”
The Judge added: “At a human level I have nothing other than sympathy for a young man ... who has unfortunately had to endure the human misery of migration from Senegal through Gambia to the north coast of Africa and the perilous journey across to France and who somehow got into the United Kingdom, and it is something I took into consideration when dealing with the defendant in this case.”
Diakhate was told he will serve half the sentence in prison, followed by 18 months spent on supervised licence when he is released from custody.