A man who was verbally abusive on Christmas Eve in 2017 after hearing an announcement warning shop staff of his presence has avoided a prison term.
At Ballymena Magistrates Court Sherman Wright (46), of Devenagh Way in Ballymena, was given a five months prison sentence, suspended for three years.
District Judge Nigel Broderick had previously deferred sentencing from May to see if the defendant could stay out of trouble and to see how he got on with a university course he is now doing in Scotland.
The court heard Wright, who has over 100 previous convictions, is still at the university where he is a “class representative”.
Defence lawyer Stephen Law also told the court the defendant has launched a crowd-funding bid to go to Madagascar “to assist those who are less fortunate than ourselves” saying his client had “empathy with those who have a troubled background”.
Since his court deferral in early May, the defendant had subsequently stolen £40 of meat from ‘Iceland’ on May 20 this year, but the judge said he was suspending the jail sentence because the defendant was still at university which was “a significant change in lifestyle”.
A prosecutor said at 3pm on December 24 in 2017, Wright was in a shop in Ballymena’s Fairhill Centre where he was verbally abusive to staff.
A member of management asked him to calm down but he replied: “F–k you, you think I’m a shoplifter? I have a university degree, I’m f–king smarter than the lot of you”.
Wright pleaded guilty to a charge of common assault arising out of the Fairhill incident but the court heard it was a technical assault as the shop worker had felt in fear during the verbal incident.
The prosecutor said after Wright shouted obscenities the employee went to get security staff and it was alleged the defendant tried to trip her up causing her to lose her footing.
Arising out of that allegation a disorderly behaviour charge had previously been withdrawn against Wright.
When interviewed by police, the defendant said he was had been unhappy that an announcement had been made that a “known shoplifter” had entered the shop.
At one stage during the court proceedings Wright attempted to speak from the dock but was told by the judge to sit down and not to interrupt again.
Defence barrister Mr Law said sentencing had been deferred to allow his client to return to his second year at university in Scotland.
Mr Law said the defendant had had a “difficult upbringing” but was now doing well at university.
Regarding the Fairhill incident, the barrister said the defendant hadn’t appropriately dealt with the announcement about him entering the store.
Judge Broderick said Wright had a very poor record and his “language and behaviour” in the shop on Christmas Eve 2017 had been “quite frankly, appalling”.