‘Professional shoplifter, 17, stole to fund his drug habit’

Gary Haggarty was not in Belfast Magistrates' Court for the hearing
Gary Haggarty was not in Belfast Magistrates' Court for the hearing

An alleged professional teenage shoplifter has been refused bail to protect storekeepers in Belfast, a judge ruled on Thursday.

The 17-year-old, who cannot be identified, steals to order in return for cash to fund his drug habit, police claimed.

He appeared before Belfast Magistrates’ Court charged with committing 14 offences in a four-month crime spree.

The youth allegedly stole tanning products, quantities of meat, cheese, laundry detergent, fabric softener and deodorant from convenience stores, chemists and a service station in the city.

His 12 alleged thefts, between April 7 and July 22, involve goods with a total value of £956.

Two further counts of going equipped for theft with a large black hold-all were also put to him.

Standing outside the dock, the teenager spoke only to confirm he understood the charges, replying: “Yes.”

Beside him his mother wept as the alleged offences were read out.

An investigating police officer strongly opposed bail being granted to the accused.

“He would be described as a professional shoplifter,” she claimed.

“He steals to order and uses the money to go out and buy drugs.”

The officer contended that the shoplifting had inflicted considerable loss on local businesses.

“His mother is at her wits end,” she added.

Denying bail, District Judge Liam McNally held that it was one of the rare cases where a defendant under 18 should be kept in custody.

“I’m quite satisfied I would be failing in my duty (if I released you),” he told the youth.

“The shopkeepers in this town would be at risk of losing further property.”

The accused was remanded into the juvenile justice centre to appear again before Belfast Youth Court next week.