A serial shoplifter who had been banned from every Lidl store in Northern Ireland as part of bail conditions has avoided going to prison for his latest theft.
District Judge Peter King said the public did not need to have Bedrick Wagner “on their bill”, in jail, for stealing a £13.50 bottle of Smirnoff vodka which was taken from a Lidl store in February this year.
Wagner pleaded guilty to the theft which happened just weeks after he was given one year in jail, suspended for two years, for nine previous shoplifting raids.
Instead, the judge extended Wagner’s suspension to three years and fined him £150.
Given that drink was involved he told Wagner (37), a Czech national of Clarence Street in Ballymena, he really was in the “last chance saloon”.
In March when Wagner first appeared on the vodka theft his bail conditions banned him from entering any Lidl store in Northern Ireland.
A prosecutor told Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday a Lidl security officer saw Wagner queuing before switching to another aisle and then concealing the vodka and leaving without paying.
Defence barrister Stephen Law said for stealing a £13 vodka bottle the “ramifications for him are catastrophic” and said the bizarre aspect was his client was not intoxicated and had money to pay for it.
For no valid reason, “in a moment of madness,” the lawyer added, Wagner decided to steal the alcohol “for a friend”.
He said Wagner, who he said had described himself as an “idiot” for doing what he did, is now working.
In January the same court was told Wagner mounted a series of shoplifting raids, in which he took £2,000 worth of goods.
He was unemployed at the time of the offences and had not attempted to get benefits because he found the process “daunting” due to the language barrier, Mr Law alleged at that time.
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 pleaded guilty to theft.
Mr Law said in January Wagner had been living in Northern Ireland since 2013 and said the offences occurred over a six months period when he was out of work.
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 then got a job in Antrim town and was “industrious,” he added.