Published Friday, 15 June 2012
Lee Sloss, aged 35, has a crime career stretching back 20 years. (© UTV)
Judges in the Court of Appeal on Thursday rejected claims that bad character evidence was unfairly admitted at Lee Sloss's trial.
Sloss, 35, whose crime career stretches back 20 years, was found guilty at Belfast Crown Court in June 2011 of burglary with intent to steal.
The victim had discovered a man poking through sanitary items in her home at Rugby Avenue in the city just after midday on 5 March 2010.
She challenged the intruder and chased him when he fled, but failed to catch him. Sloss, formerly of Avoniel Road, Belfast, was twice picked out by the woman during police identification procedures.
At his trial the prosecution sought to introduce 127 previous convictions relating to burglary, criminal damage, going equipped for theft, receiving stolen property, handling and theft.
The judge admitted 25 convictions for burglary and attempted burglary, demonstrating that Sloss had a prolific record for raids on homes.
In three of these cases it was said that he entered dwelling houses during the day, claiming he'd simply gone to the wrong place when detected.
A similar excuse was used by the Rugby Avenue intruder. Counsel for Sloss argued that the identification evidence was so weak that the case should have been withdrawn from the jury.
He also pointed to legal guidance on bad character evidence which states that if there is little or no other evidence against a defendant it is likely to be unjust to admit previous convictions.
But Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justices Higgins and Coghlin, ruled this was not such a case.
Sir Declan said Sloss's previous convictions showed evidence of a propensity to similar burglaries, adding that it was capable of supporting identification evidence.
The jury was correctly charged not to find him guilty only on the basis of his bad character, the court held.
Sir Declan said: "The learned trial judge directed the jury that the case against the appellant depended wholly on the correctness of the (victim's) identification.
"The direction, therefore, did not invite the jury to the view that her identification might be supported by the bad character evidence."
Dismissing Sloss's appeal, he concluded: "In the circumstances of this case we have no doubt that this was a safe conviction."