Serial thief with heroin problem jailed

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A serial thief has been jailed for seven months for going on a new shoplifting spree in Belfast while “suffering” from heroin.

Michael McNally, who has nearly 250 previous convictions, stole hundreds of pounds worth of goods from city centre retailers.

Sending the 29-year-old back to prison today, a district judge with an extensive knowledge of his past offending voiced shock at his latest appearance in court.

Fiona Bagnall said: “I immediately thought that is someone who has taken heroin.”

McNally, with an address at Victoria Street in Belfast, pleaded guilty to five counts of theft.

He stole goods worth £225 in total during raids on Build-A-Bear, Pound World, Claire’s Accessories and Lush on Monday.

Another £106 worth of stock was taken from Lush on September 12.

McNally’s previous record includes randomly stealing steaks, scarves and hand cream.

Other past shoplifting incidents involved taking 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.

But a marked change in McNally’s demeanour was noted as he entered the dock at Belfast Magistrates’ Court.

A defence lawyer said he was so unwell in custody that it raised significant concerns with a doctor who assessed him.

The solicitor added that McNally told police that he’s “suffering” due to heroin use.

“Your Worshop is familiar with Michael, but he’s a different character this morning,” he said.

“He does require some degree of help and intervention.”

Imposing the seven-month jail term, Judge Bagnall expressed hope that it would be long enough for his condition to improve.

Referring to the apparent drug use, she said: “I’m genuinely shocked at what I see.

“Michae has had many challenges, but that hasn’t been one.”