Serial shoplifter who stole over £400 worth of meat from shops in Ballymena took more food within hours of getting out on bail after lodging appeal regarding seven months jail term

Gareth McKee

A SERIAL shoplifter who was released on bail pending appeal after being given a seven months jail term for stealing more than £400 worth of meat which he claimed he was selling on for money to get drugs – then swiped another £20 worth of meat within hours of leaving prison.

Gareth McKee (24), with an address at Chichester Park West in Ballymena, took meat, which was not recovered, from an unnamed Spar shop on October 4 this year and was identified on CCTV.

On October 6 this year he stole over £50 worth of cosmetics from Ballymena’s TK Maxx, from where he had been previously barred, which was also captured on CCTV.

Police saw McKee at Sandown Park in Ballymena and upon police arrival he discarded a bag which contained the stolen cosmetics and he said he couldn’t remember what happened because of alcohol consumption.

Defence solicitor David Nagra said McKee’s childhood in Larne was “chaotic” as his father had over 300 convictions and “almost every other day” the police would have been visiting their home.

McKee moved from house to house and town to town and left school at the age of 15 with no formal qualifications and ended up in Ballymena as a “direct consequence of paramilitary threats against the family in Larne”.

Mr Nagra said McKee is addicted to drugs and has been in and out of prison and each time he has to reapply for benefits.

McKee has more than 75 convictions including around 40 for theft.

The lawyer said McKee was released from prison a matter of hours before stealing the meat on October 4.

On October 3 the defendant had been given a seven months jail term which was recently reduced to four months on appeal.

McKee appeared at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday via video link from prison and pleaded guilty to the latest offences.

Mr Nagra accepted there was a “high likelihood” of McKee re offending but said the defendant now has an opportunity to engage with the Prince’s Trust programme.

Asking for a suspended sentence, the lawyer said that would mean his client would not be “getting out of jail free”.

Deputy District Judge Trevor Browne said there was a “very high nuisance factor” with McKee and gave him a four months jail term, suspended for 18 months.

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