A judge praised a resilient pensioner on Friday as he freed a burglar who ransacked her home and a married couple who used her stolen credit card to go on a £1,200 spending spree buying drink and flat screen TVs.
Judge Stephen Fowler QC told the trio that while every quality the pensioner had and displayed stood in stark contrast to theirs, he believed the public would best be protected by allowing for continued treatment in the community.
The offences were committed in Ballycastle in August 2013.
52-year-old burglar Joseph Patrick McDonnell of Dorset Close, Antrim, was given an 18-month jail term suspended for two years, along with 39-year-old Gerald Francis Joseph Gould, of Antrim Road, Belfast, who admitted fraudulently using the pensioner’s credit card.
Gould’s 37-year-old wife Lynn Louise Marie Gould, with a Belfast address in Ponsonby Avenue, who also admitted the fraud charge, was freed on 12 months’ probation.
Freeing her, the Dungannon Crown Court judge said she deserved full credit for her guilty plea.
It was clear, added Judge Fowler, that Lynn Gould was trying to address a number of issues and should be allowed to continue to address those difficulties.
Her husband, he said, is already on probation and it was fortunate for him that he is making changes in his behaviour and continues working with the authorities to resolve a number of issues.
Judge Fowler said that “tempting as it would be” to impose an immediate custodial sentence, he believed the public would best be served and protected if he were allowed to remain on probation and to deal with his problems.
It was for this reason, and this reason alone, he added, that he was prepared to give Gould this opportunity.
Turning to McDonnell, the judge said while his offending would normally attract an immediate custodial sentence, he had both medical and probation reports which indicated he suffers from considerable mental health problems.
However, these problems, he added, were being treated, and will no doubt continue to be treated for some time.
The judge said that, on balance, given these difficulties, he was prepared to suspended the sentence.