Northern Ireland news

Man who enlisted the help of young girl to carry out spate of handbag thefts jailed for 10 months

Some of the thefts took place at the Kennedy Centre

A 28-year old man who enlisted the help of a young girl to carry out a spate of handbag thefts was jailed for 10 months yesterday.

Handing Christian Lakatos a 20-month sentence, Judge Neil Rafferty said his criminality involved "the cynical exploitation of a child, and such offending belongs in the novels of Charles Dickens rather than 21st century Northern Ireland."

Lakatos, who is from a Roma background and with an address at Sliabh Dubh View in west Belfast, was informed he will serve half his sentence in prison, followed by a ten-month period on licence, after he pleaded guilty to five thefts.

Prosecuting barrister David McNeill said Lakatos's offending occurred in supermarkets across Belfast in November 2018, where he used the same modus operandi.

This, the prosecutor said, involved him going to a supermarket with the child, who then stole handbags from women pushing trolleys. Following the theft, both Lakatos and the child would leave the scene in his car.

When Judge Rafferty asked for further details about the girl, he was told she was aged around 12 and is no longer in Northern Ireland.

Belfast Crown Court heard all five handbag thefts were carried out at various stores including Asda on the Shore Road and M&S on the Lisburn Road on dates between November 2 and 10, 2018.

During one of the thefts, a woman had her handbag stolen from her trolley whilst she tried on a coat, while another woman who was shopping felt a jerk from her trolley then realised her bag was missing.

Following the theft of a handbag at the Kennedy Centre, staff noted Lakatos's car registration, which was handed to police.

He was arrested and despite initial denials, he later pleaded guilty to five counts of theft.

Defence barrister Richard McConkey pointed that whilst Lakatos never "physically took" any of the handbags, he admitted the offending as part of a joint enterprise.

Sentencing Lakatos, Judge Rafferty highlighted the use of a child for offending, and said "I am satisfied that he (Lakatos) if not the orchestrator was certainly a key player."

Branding this offending as "the cynical exploitation of a child", Judge Rafferty added this offending was "not a one-off" but rather a "systematic period of offending."

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