Drug abuse had role in church break-in by Carrick man

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A man who broke into a church building and stole items including a cash donation was snared when his DNA was obtained from blood he left at the scene, Coleraine Magistrates Court heard on Monday.

Neil Henry (22), whose address was given as University Street, Belfast, and Jason Erdis (28), of Sunningdale Crescent, Carrickfergus, were sentenced for their roles in the break-in at the First Presbyterian Church in Coleraine’s Abbey Street in September last year.

A TV and DVD player along with a cash donation of £100 which had been given to the church as well as another sum of money were taken in the break-in.

A prosecutor said blood found at the scene was matched to Henry and he pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and criminal damage.

He had broken a window with a brick and then punched the rest of the glass through causing cuts to his hands.

Erdis had denied the one charge he faced - burglary - but was found guilty after a contest in the same court in December.

The prosecutor told Monday’s court two men were seen climbing out of a window at the church with a TV and DVD player.

She said a filing cabinet had been targeted and a £100 donation was taken along with other cash.

The descriptions given to police of the men were circulated and Henry was seen with cuts to his fingers and was in possession of money bags containing coins.

The prosecutor said at 6.00 am on the day of the break-in Henry, Erdis and another person were asked to leave the Simon Community in Coleraine.

She said CCTV showed them running away from the church.

The prosecutor said the TV and DVD player were recovered.

A defence lawyer for Erdis said the defendant had addiction issues and the abuse of drugs had a part to play in the burglary.

A lawyer for Henry said his client accepted the seriousness of the offence which was aggravated by the type of building targeted.

Sentencing the men, District Judge Liam McNally said it was the awareness of a member of the public who helped bring them to justice.

He said he had no doubt Henry only pleaded guilty because of his DNA at the scene but said he was impressed with the contents of a Probation Report.

The judge said Henry had been sent to prison before and it had not stopped him offending and he hoped Probation could break that cycle but he warned any breach will lead to a six months sentence.

The judge told Erdis he had contested the charge but he had previously found him guilty and jailed him for six months.

He ordered each man to pay compensation of £100 to the church.

Erdis was released on bail of £500 pending appeal.