Man with 127 previous offences said ‘medical difficulties’ meant he had to use cafe toilet and then he rifled through staff member’s handbag

Pear Tree
Ferguson struck at this cafe.

A MAN who originally claimed ‘medical difficulties’ meant sometimes he had to use the toilet every twenty minutes has pleaded guilty to burglary with intent to steal from a staff member’s handbag after asking to use the bathroom at a cafe in Coleraine.

Garth Ronald Ferguson (33), whose address was given as Lodge Road in Coleraine, committed the offence at the Pear Tree Cafe, on July 21 and has been jailed for a year.

He had 127 previous offences including one robbery, 44 for burglary and 43 for theft.

A prosecutor told Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday November 5 that on the date in question the defendant entered the premises at 9am asking to use the toilets and he was directed to the facilities upstairs.

A staff member then went upstairs and spotted Ferguson going through a handbag in an area marked ‘staff only’ although nothing was taken before the defendant fled and he was later arrested at the Translink Station.

When interviewed Ferguson initially claimed he didn’t enter any room other than the toilet and was about to go into a kitchen area but denied being in a staff room area and denied rifling through a handbag.

A previous court heard that Ferguson told police he was walking to the Translink station to meet his granny and “medical difficulties” meant sometimes he had to use the toilet every twenty minutes so he entered the cafe.

The earlier court heard that police had pointed out to him that his address was only a short distance away.

Defence barrister Ben Thompson told the November 5 court the defendant was in breach of two suspended sentences.

Mr Thompson said Ferguson was at “a low ebb” at the time of the offences and had been in a cafe very close to his bail address.

The lawyer said at the time the defendant had relapsed into drug addiction and after going upstairs the theft was “almost opportunistic” when he “succumbed to temptation” in a “ham-fisted effort” at theft.

Mr Thompson said it must have been a frightening incident for the staff member but there had been no confrontation and Ferguson “made off immediately”.

The lawyer said Ferguson had behavioural difficulties from childhood and when his father died he suffered from “low self-esteem” and “turned to drugs”.

“The last decade or more he has been using heavy drugs in a very heavy way,” said Mr Thompson.

The defendant had been in prison for three and a half months where he has detoxed, the court was told.

Jailing Ferguson for a year, District Judge Liam McNally noted it had only taken the defendant a small number of days to commit another theft after previously being given a suspended jail term and then, later, he was involved in the Pear Tree incident.

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