A SERIAL shoplifter who systematically stole over £400 worth of meat in a number of blatant raids in Ballymena has been refused long term bail but was granted compassionate bail to attend his grandfather’s funeral.
Gareth McKee (24), whose address was listed as Chichester Park West in Ballymena, stole meat worth £150, £124, £100.88 and £41.29 from Spar and Co-Op stores on April 19 as well as September 2, 12 and 13 this year.
At Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday he also pleaded guilty to stealing meat from Robinson’s supermarket, from which he had been previously barred. That incident happened on August 27.
The defendant appeared in the dock in handcuffs as the charges were put to him and pleaded guilty to the five charges he faced.
Opposing bail a police officer said McKee had conducted a “crime spree” in the Ballymena area.
The officer said McKee enters shops with a bag and “heads straight to the meat products”.
He said McKee was identified as a “priority offender” in the Ballymena area with 75 previous convictions.
The officer said the defendant was a “habitual shoplifter” who claimed he was stealing to “feed his drug habit”.
The officer said when McKee goes to jail he comes out and repeats the crimes and the most recent series of offending took place whilst he was on Probation.
Defence solicitor David Nagra said the defendant had been released from prison and didn’t have any “financial resources”.
He said McKee had obtained “the usual £200 grant” from a government agency which was to last him five weeks but he “ran out of money”.
District Judge Nigel Broderick said there were charities and foodbanks and the defendant did not need to steal.
He said: “I think he needs to settle down a bit”.
The judge said that unless McKee addresses his drug addiction then there was a “significant risk” of him re-offending.
Judge Broderick refused long-term bail on the grounds of the risk of further offences but he granted compassionate bail.
Mr Nagra said the defendant’s grandfather Malcolm McKee (88) died of cancer and his funeral was scheduled for Friday September 20.
After the case was dealt with loud banging could be heard coming from the cells below the courtroom.
It emerged it was McKee and Judge Broderick warned that if it didn’t stop the defendant would be brought back to the dock.
After a legal representative went to see the defendant the noise stopped.
Gareth McKee’s case was adjourned to October 3 for a pre-sentence report.
Meanwhile, McKee’s brother Dale McKee (26), whose address was listed as no fixed abode in Ballymena, appeared at the same court via video link from Maghaberry Prison.
He pleaded guilty to the theft of meat worth £150 from the Spar at Grove Road in Ballymena on April 19.
He denies charges of burglary of a dwelling with intent to steal at Parkside Rise in Ballymena on June 4 this year and also denies causing criminal damage to guttering.
His case was further adjourned.
The court heard Dale McKee was also granted compassionate bail to attend his grandfather’s funeral.