Northern Ireland news

Man linked to Belfast clothes shop ram raid given suspended sentence

The ram raid at the SD Kells store in Bedford Street. Picture by Mal McCann

A MAN linked to a ram raid on a Belfast clothes shop has been handed an 18 month prison sentence suspended for three years.

Hugh Samuel Carson (35), whose address was given as c/o of Maghaberry prison, had previously pleaded guilty to a charge of handling stolen goods to the value of £12,560.

A charge of robbery had earlier been left on the court books.

Belfast Crown Court heard that a black Vauxhall Corsa car was stolen in the Newtownabbey area of Co Antrim on April 3, 2020.

Prosecution barrister David McNeill said that at 8.23pm the car was used in a "ram raid attack'' on SD Kells clothes shop on Bedford Street in Belfast which was closed at the time.

"The vehicle was captured driving onto the pavement and then reversing back into the plate glass window of the shop,'' explained Mr McNeill.

"Three masked and gloved men jumped out while the driver remained in the vehicle. They ran inside and grabbed armfuls of clothing and put them in the boot of the car.

"The whole incident lasted just 50 seconds. Members of the public alerted police who later secured the stolen vehicle in St Peter's Court, Belfast in the early hours of the following morning.''

The prosecution barrister said staff "ascertained a large number of shirts, polo shirts, jumpers and sports jackets had been taken".

Judge Paul Ramsey KC heard the defendant was arrested a week later and his mobile phone was seized. An analysis of the phone was carried out and messages and pictures were retrieved relating to items of clothing offering them for sale.

"The manager of SD Kells identified the clothing in the pictures as some of the missing items taken during the ram raid. The tags in the pictures matched tags used by SD Kells.''

At his first police interview, Carson denied any involvement in the ram raid. At a second interview, he claimed he "sold phones, motorbikes and cars but not clothing''.

He suggested someone might have sent him the photos but denied taking the pictures of the stolen clothing and denied taking part in the burglary.

Defence barrister Sean Devine told the court: "Mr Carson has expressed remorse for selling the stolen items. He had drink on board when he agreed to do so. The items he had in his possession was only a portion of what was taken.

"He is a father of four children, he is in a supportive relationship and his partner is not prepared to tolerate his criminality.''

Judge Ramsey said that although the custody threshold had been passed, he was taking into account Carson's efforts to deal with his mental health issues along with drug and alcohol addictions with the help of the Probation Service.

Northern Ireland news