Mum who went on shoplifting spree to prepare for jail
A mother who shoplifted 'on an industrial scale' has been told to make arrangements for her teenage son before she is sent to jail.
Deirdre Anne McKeown is facing imprisonment after going on a stealing spree at the Abbey Centre just outside north Belfast.
The 51-year-old, of Ashbourne Manor in Ballymena, Co Antrim, took electric toothbrushes, dresses and sandwiches from stores last month.
Sentencing was adjourned at Belfast Magistrates’ Court to allow McKeown a chance to put alternative care arrangements in place.
But District Judge Fiona Bagnall made clear she will be spending time behind bars.
Mrs Bagnall said: “This was well organised and thought-through, there’s nothing impulsive about this.
“It was professionally done on an industrial scale.”
The court heard McKeown already has 26 previous convictions for theft, as well as six for fraud.
She was arrested on July 6 after taking security tags off two electric toothbrushes worth £70 and leaving Superdrug without paying.
A prosecution lawyer said McKeown initially gave a false name and date of birth.
A magnet found on her had been used to remove the tags from the items.
McKeown also had in her possession two dresses, valued at £120, which had been stolen from a Monsoon store earlier that day, along with razors and two sandwiches.
Staff at a nearby Poundland shop confirmed they had checked CCTV footage and viewed the food being taken.
During interviews McKeown said she didn’t know why she had taken the items, and initially denied going equipped for theft.
She claimed to have found the magnet in her garden, put it in her bag and forgot it was there.
A defence lawyer told the court there were concerns about the “psychological process” his client went through at the time of the offences.
But Mrs Bagnall responded: “I suspect that’s little comfort for the shopkeepers that have been the victims of this.”
With McKeown convicted of three counts of theft, going equipped for theft and obstructing police, the court was told she remains the principal carer for her teenage son.
Postponing the sentencing process, Mrs Bagnall inquired: “What arrangements has she made for him, because it’s going to be immediate custody.”