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Dungannon man who burgled two Co. Armagh shops with crowbar avoids jail

'His record is dreadful. He's got 198 convictions, the full range of offences that one can have'

A Dungannon man who broke into two Co Armagh shops using a crowbar and stole items has avoided jail.

Justin Patrick McDonald, of Lisnahull Road, was instead handed an enhanced combination order, meaning he is required to undergo probation for one year, alongside 80 hours of community service. He was also ordered to pay compensation for the items stolen, some of which were recovered.

The 43-year-old appeared before Armagh Magistrates’ Court, sitting at Newry Courthouse, charged with two counts of burglary.

Both offences occurred on September 6, 2021 and took place at a Centra store on the Portadown Road in Armagh and at a Spar on the Armagh Road in Portadown.

Only the facts surrounding the theft in Armagh were outlined.

The court heard that at 4:45am on the date in question, the reporting person had told police that at the Deansbridge Centra in Armagh, they observed the sliding doors of the shop were open, the window was damaged and the alarm was going off.

There did not appear to be anyone in the area.

On police arrival, they observed the front doors of the shop fully open, with the glass door having been smashed. The tobacco cabinet in the store had also been tampered with.

The defendant was observed on CCTV using a crowbar to break into the premises, before making his way to the tobacco stand.

He then left in a vehicle, getting into the rear of a van carrying a bag containing stolen items.

On hearing the facts, District Judge Anne Marshall asked the total value of the items stolen by the defendant, who had previously been convicted in his absence, but was still denying the offence.

She was told that stock including tobacco to the value of £971.50 was taken from Centra, while £125.29 was taken from the Spar.

Following comments made by a defence lawyer, District Judge Marshall said: “His record is dreadful. He’s got 198 convictions, the full range of offences that one can have. The most recent offence is from August 2022 which is domestic violence.

“This occurred weeks after he was in Dungannon court and got a suspended sentence, so he’s in a difficult position.”

After being informed by a probation officer that probation was still a sentencing option, District Judge Marshall commented: “Probation had expressed some hesitation about working with you because you’ve had probation on a number of occasions but you’ve continued to offend.

“I’m going to give you another chance because I think the last probation order was some time ago, to see if there’s maybe a change of attitude.”

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