Northern Ireland

Man went on £10,000 shoplifting spree to feed crack cocaine habit

Gavin Doole (34), of Arundel Walk, was ordered to carry out 80 hours unpaid work along with an 18-month probation order after pleading guilty to 20 counts of theft
Gavin Doole (34), of Arundel Walk, was ordered to carry out 80 hours unpaid work along with an 18-month probation order after pleading guilty to 20 counts of theft

A WEST Belfast man who went on a £10,000 shoplifting spree to feed his crack cocaine habit has narrowly avoided a prison sentence.

Gavin Doole (34), of Arundel Walk, was ordered to carry out 80 hours unpaid work along with an 18-month probation order after pleading guilty to 20 counts of theft.

Judge Desmond Marrinan said he was taking the "exceptional course'' not to impose an immediate custodial sentence to allow Doole to get treatment for his drug addiction and rebuild his relationship with his four children.

Belfast Crown Court heard there had been a series of thefts from commercial premises between November 2021 and May 2022.

Prosecution lawyer Gareth Purvis said the thefts involved cigarettes, expensive clothing and tobacco products.

Following examination of CCTV, police later arrested Doole and he made full admissions to the 20 thefts which totalled £6,000.

Mr Purvis said Doole had 22 previous convictions, including ten for theft and three for fraud. The defendant was also the subject of an 18-month probation order at the time of the thefts.

Defence barrister Charlene Dempsey said: "He started using cocaine recreationally and while working as a kitchen porter a work colleague told him he could make the drug even stronger if you smoke it through a pipe which turns it into 'crack cocaine'. His life then went into a downward spiral with a very serious addiction which was costing him £300 a day, sometimes as much as £1,000 per day. His addiction was at its peak and he was stealing these items to sell to feed his addiction.''

Ms Dempsey added that as a result of his addiction, his relationship with his "childhood sweetheart'' broke down and their children are now in kinship care.

The court heard Doole had spent six months in prison for other offences and was "forced to dry out''.

The defence barrister said Doole was now drug free and he wanted to work with the Probation Service with the goal of eventually being allowed to have his children returned to him.

Judge Marrinan described the shoplifting offences as "quite a spiral of criminality''.