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Co Armagh man with more than 90 convictions handed suspended prison sentence

A Tandragee man with a lengthy record has been given the chance by a judge to show that he has turned his life around when he was handed a suspended prison sentence.

Sean Michael McAvoy, 25, of Ballybeg Park, pleaded guilty to possession of class B drugs at Armagh Magistrates’ Court last Tuesday.

The incident occurred on January 17, when police executed a search warrant on the defendant’s address and seized a small amount of cannabis from a box which also included cigarette papers and a lighter.

McAvoy was interviewed at the house and admitted that the drugs belonged to him.

He told officers that he “smoked on and off” and it was confirmed to the court that the amount was consistent with that of personal use.

However, the defendant also refused to tell the police where he had obtained the cannabis from.

Defence counsel stated that McAvoy had a long-term problem with the drug as well as alcohol.

They added that he had a “very lengthy record especially for someone so young”.

Court heard that probation did not feel his offending had changed significantly and did not feel a community service order appropriate, according to the pre-sentence report.

This was debated by the defence who argued McAvoy had moved on since his younger years stating that at 19 he would be in court four or five times a month.

The court also heard that the turning point had been in 2015 when he had been advised by a judge to get out of Newry and start “wising up”.

It was heard that this was exactly what the defendant did and he now lives with his partner, who as defence commented, “has no record”.

Defence counsel claimed that McAvoy had been off both vices since 2015 but had a relapse regarding his cannabis problem around Christmas time last year.

Court heard the defendant had recently joined a recruitment agency, with him being interviewed for one job and begun training for another.

The defence reiterated how much McAvoy was reformed by stating he had 90 convictions by the age of 22 and only offended twice in the last three years with these crimes “not of the same level”.

Deputy District Judge Anne Marshall told the defendant “you were given a chance in January this year when you were given a community service order for 200 hours and this offence occurred a week or a fortnight later”.

She continued: “You have since completed 77 of the 200 hours and probation have informed the court you have missed several appointments and have been issued formal warnings”.

Defence counsel argued this fact stating that McAvoy had only received one formal warning from the probation service.

Judge Marshall replied that “one is enough”, before adding, “there is no point giving him another order if he can not complete the current one”.

McAvoy was sentenced to two months in prison suspended for eighteen months for this offence.

“You have this time to prove what your representative in court says is true,” Judge Marshall concluded.

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