Resorted to theft because of ‘language barrier’ - claim

Ballymena Courthouse.
Ballymena Courthouse.

A Czech national living in Ballymena mounted a series of shoplifting raids, in which he swiped £2,000 worth of goods.

A court was told he was unemployed at the time and had not attempted to get benefits because he found the process “daunting” due to the language barrier.

The claim was made by a defence barrister at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday for Bedrick Wagner (37), of Clarence Street in the town.

Wagner nabbed items worth £2,074 - mostly computer hard drives - on nine occasions between March and December last year at supermarkets in Ballymena and Ballyclare and has now pleaded guilty to theft.

A prosecutor said during one incident security staff noticed a number of hard drives missing from shelves and when they viewed CCTV they identified the culprit.

When Wagner returned to the store five hours later, she added, he was nabbed.

During interview Wagner said he could not remember the thefts on that occasion due to his level of intoxication as he had been drinking from the previous day.

The stolen items were not recovered and Wagner said he has taken them to sell on for money as he was not working.

Defence barrister Stephen Law said Wagner was from the Czech Republic and had been living in Northern Ireland since 2013.

He said the offences occurred over a six months period when he was out of work.

District Judge Peter King said Wagner was not stealing food to survive or clothing for children but Mr Law said his client was stealing the high-end items to get money to pay for his rent or else he would have ended up homeless.

Mr Law said Wagner did not apply for benefits as he “found the whole process daunting” because of the “language barrier”.

“He resorted to theft rather than seek benefits,” but is now working in Antrim town and is “industrious,” he added.

Wagner also admitted a number of driving matters.

Imposing a one year jail term, suspended for two years, Judge King ordered that full compensation is paid.

The judge told the defendant the only reason he was not being jailed was because of the guilty plea and because he was now working and could afford to pay the money back.

He warned Wagner if there is any “future theft spree” he will be starting off with a year in jail.