A MAN who assaulted a store detective after being asked to leave a Lidl store where he had taken his pet sheep called ‘Chops’ on a lead, has avoided jail.
The extraordinary incident involving Andrew Meneice (33), of Glenbush Drive, Portrush, happened at the Lidl store in the resort.
Some of the scenes were captured on camera and caused a sensation on social media.
Meneice had previously been given a four months jail term last year but had been released on bail pending appeal.
He was back in Coleraine Courthouse this week at the County Court for his appeal against sentence which resulted in Judge Geoffrey Miller QC suspending the four months jail term for two years.
Meneice was also given a two year Restraining Order which bans him from taking ‘Chops’ into any retail premises apart from a sheep mart.
The defendant had originally been taken to court following the Lidl incident and charged with two assaults on the store detective; being disorderly and resisting a police officer in the execution of his duty.
Last year he pleaded guilty to resisting the police officer but contested the other three charges.
At Coleraine Magistrates Court last year he was found guilty of one of the assaults and being disorderly. The other assault charge was dismissed.
Sentencing the defendant at the Magistrates Court last year, District Judge Liam McNally had said because he convicted him he couldn’t give him any credit for pleading guilty.
He said: “You paraded around with a sheep, you were making comments about ‘not buying Lidl lamb’. You had no right to be in there with the sheep.”
The judge said the sheep began nibbling at food and Meneice was making “pedantic” comments about the store’s animal policy.
“Staff made reasonable efforts to get you to leave,” said the judge but Meneice then struck an employee with his fists and struck him with a metal pole.
Handing down a four months prison term, the judge had added: “That’s a situation which this court will not tolerate”.
Also at the court last year, Lidl store detective David Bennett told the court he saw a “male with a sheep on a lead” entering the Portrush shop and Meneice, “whose eyes were glazed” and appeared intoxicated, became agitated and verbally abusive after being told to leave.
Mr Bennett explained that because of health and safety and hygienic reasons he “couldn’t bring a sheep into the store”.
Mr Bennett said the defendant began shouting and when he was told the police were being called his voice became “more raised”.
Mr Bennett said he blocked a punch from the defendant and after being led outside Meneice continued to swing punches at him before the defendant broke off a part of a display and struck him with a metal bar which he partially blocked with his arm but was hit on the face.
The store detective said Meneice also tried to spit on him during a barrage of verbal abuse.
Store manager Tomas Fusek had said the defendant was “totally out of order” because “you don’t normally come to a store with a sheep on a lead”.
Lidl customer assistant Jonathan Gerrish told last summer’s hearing that Meneice had earlier been in the store that day with his sheep, saying: “Save the sheep” and “Don’t buy lamb in Lidl” and although police had been called the defendant returned.
Meneice told the court last year he had gone to the store because he had been drinking whilst on medication and said it was a “spur of the moment” decision.
He told the court the sheep was called ‘Chops’ and he had her since she was a day old and was going to give her back but he “got attached to her”.
He alleged that in the store the sheep, a “defenceless animal”, was “punched” during the incident which made him “upset”.
Speaking after Wednesday’s appeal hearing, the defendant said he was glad he had not been jailed over the head of the incident involving ‘Chops’.
“I am happy this is over and done with now and I’m happy not to be going to jail.”
He said on the day in question he had been drinking before taking ‘Chops’ for a walk and he had gone into Lidl on the “spur of the moment”.
Meneice keeps the sheep in a pen at a relative’s house a short distance from his own home and he said he will continue to take the sheep for walks.
“Chops is well-known in Portrush and is a bit of a character. I realise I am not allowed to take her into shops, not even the car parks of shops, but she will still be out and about.”