Man stole charity box in Ballymena a few days after being given a suspended jail sentence

A MAN stole a charity box in Ballymena a few days after being given a suspended jail term at court.

Steven Johnston (25), with an address in the Cushendall Road area of the town, took the charity box containing £20 which had been placed in a chemist shop in Ballymena to collect money for what was described on the charge sheet as the ‘Head Injury Family Support Group’.

Johnston was in Woodside’s Pharmacy on November 18 last year when he took the charity box from a counter and fled.

The incident was captured on CCTV.

A prosecutor said a staff member informed the defendant’s partner that he needed to return the charity box and after his partner phoned him he returned five minutes later.

When spoken to by police he made full admissions to theft.

Last September Johnston stole a bottle of ketchup worth £2 from Poundland in Ballymena, the court was told.

A defence solicitor said the defendant had a relevant record and is currently on a suspended sentence which he received last November.

District Judge Nigel Broderick said Johnston had appeared at Magherafelt Magistrates Court on November 13 last year when he received a six months suspended sentence and five days later he took the charity box.

The judge added: “It would seem to absolutely fly in the face of any logic”.

The court heard a pre-sentence report described the defendant as having a ‘moderate learning disability’ with a “capacity similar to that of an eleven-year-old”.

The judge said his immediate reaction was to send Johnston to prison “however I tread carefully because he does have a learning disability”.

He adjourned the case to March 19 saying he wanted more details about the learning disability.

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