Two London-based students have avoided jail for stealing thousands of pounds worth of equipment during raids on an Apple Store in Belfast.
Sharmaarke Ismail and Ibrahim Mohamed both received two-month suspended sentences due to the time they spent on remand in custody.
Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard the academic high-achievers became involved in a “hare-brained scheme” after travelling to Northern Ireland for either a university open day or to go sightseeing.
Ismail, 20, of Berne Road in Croydon, pleaded guilty to stealing goods valued at £4,242 from the Apple Store at Victoria Square on September 28 last year.
He also admitted taking a £220 scarf from a nearby Cruise store.
Mohamed, 20, from Brooke Drive in Lambeth, entered guilty pleas to the theft of £1,565 worth of Apple products and going equipped for theft with a high-strength magnet.
They were arrested near the Victoria Square retail centre after police viewed CCTV footage of the first shoplifting incident.
Searches recovered a range of Apple products, including wireless headphone sets and disc drives, from their backpacks.
Prosecutors previously described it as a planned and sophisticated thieving operation.
But defence barrister Declan Quinn, representing Ismail, contended that it had been a foolish move to go back to the scene of the crime.
“Whoever came up with this hare-brained scheme didn’t think it though very well,” he said.
“Having previously stolen from the Apple Store, the defendants returned to Victoria Square and were seen by police who happened to be there investigating the matter a day before.”
Mr Quinn told the court his client had come to Belfast with friends for a sightseeing trip.
“It’s a popular tourist destination now from Britain,” he said.
Counsel added that Ismail is studying for a marketing degree at Middlesex University, although his convictions could impact on his future job prospects.
Agreeing with those submissions, District Judge Fiona Bagnall commented: “Young people don’t think of these things.”
Mohamed’s lawyer, Sean O’Hare, said he had travelled to Belfast with the intention of attending a university open day.
“He foolishly decided to take advantage of the fact they were not known in the area and had obviously managed to get away with the (original) offences,” Mr O’Hare told the court.
Both defendants were in custody for a number of weeks before securing bail.
Sentencing them to two months imprisonment, Judge Bagnall suspended the terms after acknowledging those periods already spent behind bars.