Staffroom thief saves £260 in custody to help repay victim

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A 36-year-old man who robbed the staffroom of an east Belfast store, saved £260 while on remand which will be passed to his victim via a compensation order, a court has heard.

Alan Patton, who appeared at Belfast Crown Court with 105 previous convictions, admitted breaking into the staffroom at Wyse Buys and stealing items belonging to an employee, including keys, bank cards and an iPhone.

The burglary occurred on March 14, and Patton, from Ravenhill Reach Court in Belfast, has been in custody since his arrest that day.

A defence barrister said that while on remand, Patton had “take real steps” to save money, which he wants given to the employee.

Patton, who admitted to a single count of burglary, was handed a 20-month sentence by Judge David McFarland, who said the sentence would be divided between 10 months in custody followed by 10 months on licence.

Judge McFarland heard that the offence came to light at around 12.30pm when the staff member’s coat and handbag were found lying on the floor of the staffroom. When she checked her bag, she realised a number of items were missing, including her iPhone and purse.

Crown prosecutor Robin Steer said that when police were called, CCTV was checked and Patton’s details were circulated. Meanwhile, the iPhone was traced to Belfast city centre using the ‘Find my iPhone’ facility, and Patton was arrested in Castle Street at around 2pm.

When he was searched, several items were located on his person – including the stolen iPhone which was found tucked into one of his socks.

Mr Steer revealed that when arrested and whilst in the custody suite, Patton was seen removing something from his back passage which he ingested. He then confessed this was heroin and cocaine and he was taken to hospital.

Defence barrister Kelly Doherty said Patton was a man with a “very active addiction” to drugs and “a person who is institutionalised ... he has spent the vast majority of his adult life in custody”.

Telling the court Patton has made efforts in the past to tackle his drugs addiction, Ms Doherty said that since his arrest earlier this year, Patton has “taken the opportunity to remain drugs-free in custody”.

She also told the court her client has saved £260, adding: “That is the unusual factor in this case, where we have a defendant who has taken real steps to put money aside to make recompense to the complainant.”