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Portadown man facing two trials for petty theft despite attempts to plead guilty

A Portadown man will face two separate trials next month on theft charges amounting to no more than £25 despite indicating guilty pleas in court.

In a back and forth with Deputy District Judge Trainor in Craigavon Magistrates’ Court, Andrew McCandless, of no fixed abode, will be brought back to contest both cases in February

The 30-year-old faces two counts of theft, which involved a soft drink and sandwich from Eurospar on June 12, 2002 on the same items from Meadow Lane Tesco a week later. He also faces a single count of attempted theft from the Tesco store.

McCandless, who appeared via videolink from Maghaberry, was asked by the judge if he had received papers from the prosecution to which he replied: “No your honour, nothing. It’ll be four months tomorrow I’ll have been in here.”

The prosecution informed the judge that papers were sent to Maghaberry Prison back on November 17.

When asked if he remembered the alleged offences taking place, McCandless denied any recollection but queried: “If I plead guilty, do I get released today, Your Honour?”

“It’s not Belfast market that we’re in,” replied Judge Trainor.

“Honestly I cannot remember the incidents and if it makes things better I’ll just plea guilty,” said McCandless.

However, Judge Trainor told the defendant that his guilty plea must be unequivocal and urged him to listen to the facts of the case before entering a plea.

The court then heard that on Monday, June 12, 2023 a man matching the defendant’s description went into a Eurospar in Portadown and stole a Sukie drink and sandwich before taking some hot food from the deli and walking out.

A week later, McCandless is alleged to have entered the Tesco store on Meadow Lane and lifted juice and sandwich from the front and walked around the store before leaving with a box of Magners over his shoulder, where he made no attempt to pay for the items.

As McCandless was leaving the store he was intercepted by a member of the security team who tried to prevent him from leaving. The box of cider was dropped and all but one fell out. He allegedly threw the remaining tin away before going on his way.

It wasn’t until police checked a derelict property on the Loughgall Road, more than three months later (Wednesday, September 27), that McCandless was arrested and questioned in relation to the alleged incidents in which, during interview, he stated he could not remember.

Turning again to McCandless, Judge Trainor asked: “Don’t feel under any pressure…but the court now wants to know whether you’re pleading guilty or not guilty to these three charges.”

“Your honour,” he replied, “I can honestly not remember but I am going to plead guilty.”

However the judge retorted: “No, that’s not sufficient. Do you accept that you are guilty of those charges or not?”

Said McCandless: “Your honour, I cannot remember remember, that’s a long time ago.”

Judge Trainor told the prosecution solicitor to leave the matter in for contest, telling the defendant, “you’ve heard the facts, it’s your choice”.

Unhappy, McCandless questions the judge once more: “Right, so you’re not accepting that I’ve pleaded guilty?”

Judge Trainor replied: “You have not pleaded guilty in my view.”

“What do you want me to say when I just can’t remember specifically?”

Halting proceedings, the two separate charges were listed for contest.

Judge Trainor concluded: “I give you sufficient time to consider your position and you’ve decided that you’re continuing to plead not guilty in spite of what you’ve been telling the court. You can come to the court [next month] and the court will try the matter.”

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