Published Saturday, 28 September 2013
The man said he took part in the burglary to pay off debts to paramilitaries. (© UTV)
Paul McCreery of Sawmill Road in the town physically shook in the dock of Belfast Crown Court on Friday as Judge Gordon Kerr pondered the sentence.
He had earlier heard that in order to to pay debts the 22-year-old had incurred while seeking to build up a car business, McCreery agreed to "steal money for an undisclosd organisation".
Prosecuting lawyer Tessa Kitson told the court that the defendant had been part of a gang who had broken into a home on Cogry Road, Ballyclare in January 2013 and had stolen a Bellini semi-automatic shotgun, a BSA air rifle and a quantity of ammunition, none of which have ever been recovered.
The court heard that a son of the home owner had been in the house at the time when he heard glass in the front door being smashed and he hid behind the door of his parents' bedroom, having armed himself with a baseball bat.
Although police were called the robbers had fled with the weapons, worth over £1,000 and had also caused £1,000 worth of damage to the front door and a cabinet in the house in their efforts to steal the guns and ammunition.
Mrs Kitson said police were led to McCreery's house as a result of DNA being recovered from the scene.
A search of his house was carried out with negative results and when asked about his whereabouts on the night in question he said he "could not recall but as he spent every evening with his partner so would 'probably have been with her'."
He then made no comment when charged with the offences but later pleaded guilty to burglary.
He was not one of the organisers, but one of the lackeys who carried it out.
Defence barrister Michael Boyd
Defence barrister Michael Boyd told the court his client had since obtained employment, and that while it was a " most serious matter" his client had no serious criminal record and that the burglary had been "speculative".
Mr Boyd said his client had gotten in to debt to paramilitaries and to clear it he had agreed to take part in the robbery.
His client's original intention was to steal money the organisers claimed was in the house, a claim rejected by Justice Kerr, who said: "I really find that hard to believe.
"They went to only one area in the house and that was where the weapons were stored."
After the guns were handed over his debt to the unnamed paramilitary group was "regarded as discharged", said the lawyer.
Mr Boyd added: "The chances my client will reoffend are arguably small as he has taken steps to make sure his will not be re-involved with these people by distancing himself from them" adding that he had been "entirely remorseful" as to the impact of his actions on the victims.
Sentencing McCreery to eight months in jail but suspended for three years, Judge Kerr said the fact "someone was present in the house when it was burgled is bound to have had a shocking effect on them".
The judge also told McCreery he was "lucky" that his sentence was being suspended.
© UTV News