A Latvian national who claimed “loan sharks” threatened him with violence unless he stole to order to pay back a debt has been given a five months jail term for a shoplifting spree when he took dozens of bottles of spirits worth over £1,200.
Kaspars Plostnieks (25), of Prospect Place, Ballymena, admitted nine theft charges relating to whiskey, brandy, gin and vodka taken from stores including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Lidl in the town.
Items swiped from shelves included Tamnavulin, Glenfiddich and Jameson whiskey and he had also attempted to steal brandy worth £250 on the day he was nabbed.
At Ballymena Magistrates Court it was also heard the defendant had stolen £100 worth of items from ‘The Range’ shop in the town.
When caught the defendant told police he had borrowed money to help pay for rent and food and he was told to steal the alcohol to “settle the debt”.
Defence solicitor John McAtamney told the court the defendant had a work accident and lost his employment and whilst not receiving benefits he was on anti-depressants.
The lawyer said Plostnieks turned to “loan sharks” and faced with a debt to re-pay he was “threatened with physical violence if he didn’t act on their orders to steal”.
District Judge Nigel Broderick said if he did not send out a strong deterrent message in the case the loan sharks would “prey on others”.
Mr McAtamney said the loan sharks would “not care” if his client was jailed or not as they would continue to target others.
The solicitor said his client had got involved in an “unfortunate series of events”.
Mr McAtamney said: “He was under extreme pressure to commit these offences.”
The lawyer said the debt appeared to have been repaid and Plostnieks is now in receipt of benefits.
Judge Broderick said although the defendant had a clear record he had to realise there must be a deterrent for the “prolific” series of raids.
Imposing a five months jail term, he said Plostnieks should have gone to the police rather than engage in 13 incidents of theft.
The defendant was released on £500 bail pending appeal with a condition barring him from entering The Range, Lidl, Tesco and Sainsbury’s in Ballymena.