Woman jailed for handbag theft from church worshipper

Scales of Justice
Scales of Justice
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A Belfast woman who stole a handbag from a worshipper in church has been jailed for six months.

Victoria McKay, 28, was told she had committed a “mean” offence against a victim who trusted those gathered with her.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard McKay and a co-accused carried out the theft at Sandy Row Methodist Church on October 7 last year.

A woman attending the Sunday service had left her handbag beside her chair while she went for lunch being provided.

When she returned the bag, containing her purse, cash, cards and reading glasses, was gone.

A witness reported seeing McKay, of Avoca Street in Belfast, and her male accomplice leave the church with the stolen belongings.

They were located and arrested by police in Great Victoria Street a short time later.

Prosecutors said the handbag and contents were then handed over, with McKay admitting the theft.

Defence barrister Richard McConkey said his client was not a member of the church.

“It’s a very nasty offence, but she did admit it so the injured party did not have to come to court to give evidence,” he added.

District Judge Paul Copeland told McKay immediate imprisonment was the only appropriate sentence.

“It was mean, it was planned, it was a breach of trust,” he said.

Pointing to her record of previous offences, the judge went on: “You are a convicted thief, a persistent thief and a remorseless thief.

“You took advantage of a trusting and innocent member of the public who was at a church service, a respectable individual who had the right and expectation to trust those around her.

“But you weren’t there for any good reason, you were there to steal what you could, and that’s exactly what you did.”

Imposing six months’ imprisonment, Mr Copeland agreed to release McKay on bail pending an appeal against the sentence.