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Man who stole from several shops found guilty after one of shortest contests ever heard in NI courtroom

A man accused stealing items – including sandwiches and wine – from shops in Laurencetown and Portadown was found guilty after one of the shortest contests ever seen in a Northern Ireland courtroom.

Andrew McCandless, of Castleview in Gilford, had pleaded not guilty to five charges of theft totalling almost £125 from Centra, Spar and Tesco stores on three separate dates between May 12 and June 6.

Appearing before Newry Magistrates’ Court, via videolink from Maghaberry, the 29-year-old – representing himself – was visibly baffled when told his case was in to fix a date for contest.

When the charges were read to him he pleaded not guilty, to which District Judge Eamon King retorted: “You’ve told me that already. Your case is in to fix a date for contest.”

McCandless questioned: “What do you mean by contest?” to which the judge outlined the fact that given the defendant had denied the charges, despite admissions during police interview, he would need to be tried to deliver an outcome.

“I’ve been inside for over three months and been on this videolink four times, how has this not been sorted already?” McCandless shot back. “Your dragging this out for no reason,” before asking if the case could be dealt with today.

Judge King obliged: “Okay, I find you guilty on all charges on the basis that you made admissions to all offences when interviewed by police.

“Three months imprisonment in respect of all matters. How long have you been in custody?”

McCandless said: “Over three months?”

Judge King replied: “Right, then you’ll be released today.”

McCandless with a gleeful “happy days” and a polite “thank you” before getting up off his seat and exiting the room.

The exchange, while swift, tickled those in court.

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