Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Gang sentenced for spate of burglaries in south Armagh

Three Newry men with 250 convictions between them have been sentenced for a spate of raids on south Armagh businesses during a one night crime spree two years ago.

The gang, totalling five members, have now all been convicted of the smash and grab crimes which targeted Killeavy Gaelic Athletic Club, the Today Shop, Mullaghbawn, Glenanne Stores and Spar in Bessbrook.

Cash, charity boxes, alcohol, cigars, scratch cards and biscuits were stolen during the break-ins at the GAA club and the three family run businesses.

Twenty five year old Paul Byrne of John Martin Street, Newry pleaded guilty to burglary, attempted burglary with intent to steal and common assault.  Gavin McClelland (34) from First Avenue in Derrybeg, Newry pleaded guilty to taking a motor vehicle without authority, using a motor vehicle without insurance and two counts of burglary.  A third accused,  24 year old Paul McMullan of Second Avenue in Derrybeg, Newry also pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary, resisting police and aiding and abetting a common assault.

A 20 year old Craigavon woman, Anita Kumar, pleaded guilty to receiving stolen goods along with 20 year old Andrew Magee from Parkhead Crescent in Newry.

All five had initially denied the original charges against them despite gang members being caught by PSNI counting cash from marked shop tills at a Derrybeg address just half an hour after the last burglary took place at Bessbrook Spar shop.

Judge Finnegan ordered McMillan, with 88 previous convictions, to complete an 80 hour enhanced combination order with two years probation. Byrne, with 64 previous convictions, was given two years probation while McClelland, with 96 previous convictions, was sentenced to an 80 hour combination order with two years probation.  He also received penalty points and a 12 month conditional discharge for the driving offences, due to a current disqualification, in the interests of rehabilitation.

Kumar was sentenced to a 12 month conditional discharge while Magee was ordered to complete a 50 hour community service order with the USPCA.

Compensation was also ordered to the premises targeted by the gang.