A man with nearly 250 previous convictions has avoided being sent back to jail for randomly stealing steak and scarves.
Michael McNally was given a two-month suspended prison sentence for shop thefts described as possibly an attempt to escape from reality.
At Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday the 29-year-old admitted stealing three scarves and hand cream worth £81.80 in total from Avoca in the city centre.
He carried out the raid on Tuesday – just four days after being released from prison.
McNally, of Hillman Street in Belfast, also pleaded guilty to the separate theft of 11 steaks valued at £44 from a Co-Op in the city on two dates in February.
His previous record includes stealing 12 tea towels from a souvenir shop in Belfast 24 hours after being granted bail last August.
He also served a jail sentence for the theft of chocolate bars from Poundland in the CastleCourt shopping complex last year.
Attempting to explain his client’s actions on Wednesday, defence solicitor Sean McCann said: “It’s sheer random decision-making which I think is possibly trying to get away from reality.”
Urging District Judge Fiona Bagnall to resist sending McNally back to prison, Mr McCann emphasised that the accused gave police no hassle when arrested.
“He just accepted his fate,” the lawyer added.
Judge Bagnall responded by pointing out: “That is no comfort to the shopkeepers of Belfast.”
But imposing a two-month sentence for all the offences, she decided to suspend the term for a year.