Young father jailed for stealing handbag from female motorist

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A father of one who snatched a handbag from the lap of a motorist in east Belfast has been handed a 16-month sentence.

Jailing 21-year old Kurtis Johnston, Judge Patricia Smyth said: “Robberies of this nature engender a great deal of fear and anxiety amongst ordinary members of the public lawfully going about their business.”

Belfast Crown Court heard that the motorist – who was in her car on My Lady’s Road when Johnston opened the passenger door and stole her bag from her lap – hurt her finger in the struggle.

The court was also told Johnston assaulted two police designated people after his arrest who were escorting him to hospital.

He has since issued an apology both to the motorist, and to the two people he spat on.

Johnston, whose address was given as Hydebank YOC, will serve half his sentence in prison, with the remaining eight months on supervised licence.

The court heard the theft took place shortly before 9am on January 19. The female had parked her car on My Lady’s Road, when the passenger door was opened and her handbag taken.

After struggling with Johnston, who grabbed the bag before fleeing with it, she exited the car and gave chase – but lost him when he ran down an alleyway.

At the time of the offence Johnston lived in the Willowfield area, and when his address was searched, items taken from the woman were found.

Despite initial denials, Johnston has since admitted two counts of assault, as well as burglary. He appeared before the court with 68 previous convictions on his criminal record.

A defence barrister spoke of Johnston’s long-standing substance misuse, revealing his client started taking drugs aged 11.