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Co Antrim man who claimed he was collecting money for deaf children is jailed for six months

Laganside Court in Belfast

A Co Antrim man who claimed he was collecting money for deaf children and who asked over 20 businesses for a donation was jailed for six months today for the "mean-spirited offence".

Ryan Best used a letter from the National Deaf Children's Society to try and pursuade businesses in Glengormley to hand over a minimum donation of £5.

However, many of those he approached were suspicious of his actions as he was dishevelled and appeared to be under the influence of drugs.

Belfast Crown Court heard that at the time of his offending, 22-year old Best, from Fernagh Court in Newtownabbey, was abusing Pregabalin.

Judge Geoffrey Miller handed Best a two-year sentence - with six months in jail and the remaining 18 months spent on licence.

Best admitted a total of 22 counts of fraud by false representation, which he committed on June 14 this year.

On 22 separate occasions over the course of one day, Best approached local businesses, claimed he was collecting money on behalf of deaf children, and asked for donations.

A Crown prosecutor said that in total, Best was handed around £30. He said that in most cases, when Best asked for money, he ended up leaving the premises empty-handed.

When asking for money, Best showed people a letter from the National Deaf Children's Society, which the court heard he received from the charity after he set up a direct debit.

However, this direct debit was cancelled by a family member after the charity was unable to collect money from Best's bank account, due to lack of funds.

Several of the businesses approached by Best reported the incident to police, and he was arrested on the Carnmoney Road that day.

He admitted the frauds, and also stealing a bottle of Fanta valued at £1.50 from a restaurant.

Defence barrister Jonpaul Shields said that at the time of offending, Best was under the influence of Pregabalin and had very little recollection of what he did.

Jailing Best for the "mean-spirited offence", Judge Miller told Best: "Your behaviour and your demeanour gave rise to considerable scepticism on the part of those you spoke to."

The judge also noted Best's "very significant problems" which include both drug addiction and mental healh issues.

After passing sentence, Judge Miller told Best that as part of his licence conditions, he needed to "engage in, participate and complete" any probation courses that will help to tackle both his addictions and other issues.

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