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Community service for man who stole car keys which were handed in at Armagh coffee shop

His defence described the theft as 'an ill-advised piece of opportunism'

Allens Armagh Dobbin Street Friary Road

A man who stole a woman’s lost keys from an Armagh shop after they had been handed in a by a member of the public has been sentenced to 100 hours of community service.

The 30-year-old’s barrister described the offence as “an ill-advised piece of opportunism”.

Christopher Ross, of Trostan Avenue in Ballymena, appeared for sentencing on theft at Armagh Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.

The defendant had been convicted in his absence after he failed to attend a contest date for the offence.

Prosecution outlined that on February 6, the injured party reported to police that her car had been stolen from the Friary Road car park in Armagh between 3.30pm and 5pm that day.

In a statement, she said she had parked her car at the Friary Road facility but later realised she had lost her keys.

The injured party went to the last place she could remember having them, a public toilet.

Whilst there she observed a sign saying that keys which had been found there had been handed into Allen’s Coffee shop nearby.

However, when the injured party attended the coffee shop she was informed the keys had already been collected by a male.

Police viewed CCTV from inside the shop and a witness identified the suspect as the defendant.

On February 8, police were contacted by a member of the public, who had seen a Facebook appeal, to say the car was spotted on the Mall.

Officers seized the car but no forensic evidence was found on it and there was no damage.

The defendant was located on April 4. During an interview, he denied driving the car but admitted to taking the keys from Allen’s Coffee shop.

Ross claimed an unknown male had asked him to go in and get the keys for him and he was unable to give details as to the identity of this male.

Defence barrister Kevin O’Hare stated: “This was clearly an ill-advised piece of opportunism which Mr Ross went along with.”

Deputy District Judge Austin Kennedy commented: “This seems a bit far fetched Mr O’Hare.”

The barrister said: “He knew what he was doing and that it was wrong. From my recollection District Judge Copeland had ordered a special report exploring community service but did not seize himself of the matter.

“There has been a de-escalation in this man’s offending over the last few years and he has relocated to Ballymena.”

Ross was sentenced to 100 hours of community service for the offence.

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