Northern Ireland

Former Irish amateur boxer jailed for a series break-ins at charities

Laganside court in Belfast
Laganside court in Belfast Laganside court in Belfast

A FORMER Irish amateur boxer has been jailed for a spate of break-ins on charity offices and causing extensive criminal damage.

Belfast Crown Court heard Brendan McKee’s “appalling’' record runs to 15 pages, including multiple entries for dishonesty offences and 40 convictions for burglaries.

McKee (31), of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to four counts of burglary, three of criminal damage and possession of cocaine, cannabis and Class C prescription drug.

The first burglary took place on June 14, 2022 at Action Mental Health at Upper Queen Street in Belfast city centre where a laptop valued at £650 was stolen. He also damaged doors, roof tiles, a 3-drawer pedestal and a filing cabinet with repair costs put at £5,819.

Within a short space of time, he broke into offices of charity Mind Wise, also in Upper Queen Street, and he stole a £500 Lenovo laptop, a £200 Samsung mobile phone and £20 in cash. During the break in, he damaged windows, three doors, with the cost of repairs and cleaning put at £665.

The following day, McKee entered the Heritage Centre in North Queen Street, in north Belfast, with intent to steal.

And on October 1, 2022, he broke into the Old Bank on the Crumlin Road in the north of the city and caused damage worth £1,760 .

Prosecutors said blood samples left at the scenes of the burglaries gave a positive match for McKee and he was subsequently arrested.

He told police he had no recollection of the incidents due to the amount of drugs he had taken but accepted he must have committed the crimes.

Defence barrister Joe Brolly said at the age of 17 McKee was “an extremely talented fighter, who boxed for Ireland in the national championships and his case is a salutary tale of drug addiction and these offences are bound up in his drug addiction, taking Pregablin and a cocktail of other drugs he could get his hands on’'.

He added: “This case is about addiction and a very serious social problem. And while boxing at championship level he had his first taste of drugs which has had an extraordinary and devastating effect on his life. In 2018 his younger brother Matthew died of a drug overdose. This defendant was serving a sentence in Magilligan prison and was not released to attend the funeral. He has felt a lot of shame and regret over that.’’

.Jailing the father-of-one for a year, the judge said McKee would spend a further 12 months on licence.