A 25-YEAR-OLD man who damaged five cars in an Enniskillen supermarket car park after stealing alcohol from inside the store has avoided going to jail by a “hair’s breadth”, Fermanagh Magistrates Court has heard.

Darren McGill, of Derrin Road, Enniskillen, pleaded guilty to stealing £4 of beer from Tesco, five counts of criminal damage to cars and using disorderly behaviour in a public place on June 25 last year. A total of £3,197 worth of damage was caused to the cars.

Meanwhile, in an unrelated matter, McGill also pleaded guilty to breaching a non-molestation order, made under the Family Homes and Domestic Violence (Northern Ireland) Order 1998, at Whaley Terrace, Enniskillen on December 17 last year.

The court heard that, at 2.05pm on June 25, police had received several emergency calls after the defendant had spat on the floor in Tesco and left without paying for the alcohol. He then damaged the five cars using a sharp object in the supermarket’s car park, before he was apprehended by security staff on Derrychara Road.

Continuing to display aggressive behaviour as a large crowd gathered, McGill kicked out, shouted and swore as he was led to the police vehicle by officers. During a subsequent interview, the defendant admitted spitting and swearing at staff, but added that he could only remember damaging three cars with a key that was found in his pocket.

A total of £3,197 worth of damage was caused to the five cars, the court heard

In relation to the breach of the non-molestation order on December 17, the injured party reported to police that she had received two missed calls and six text messages from McGill, which had caused her “distress”.

After his arrest, the defendant admitted the offence, but added that he couldn’t understand why he was not allowed to contact the injured party.

Defending solicitor, Barry Lynam, told the court that the non-molestation order had involved his client’s mother and there was “nothing of a threatening nature” in the messages, which had been sent to his sister’s phone.

However, the solicitor conceded that the offences in June last year were “much more serious” and had been committed when the defendant was clearly under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Mr Lynam said that McGill was remorseful and would not have behaved in a similar fashion in sobriety.

The solicitor said the crux of the matter was his failure to engage with the relevant statutory authorities to deal with his mental health and addiction issues.

While admitting that his client was in breach of two suspended sentences, Mr Lynam urged the judge to consider putting him on probation as he needed some supervision and guidance from professionals: “Left to his own devices, he’s just going to reoffend."

After reading medical and other reports, district judge Peter King said it was “quite clear” that the only way to break the cycle of offending was some form of community-based assistance, otherwise the defendant would be in and out of prison.

In respect of all the matters, the judge imposed a combination order consisting of 12 months on probation and 100 hours of community service.

Warning McGill he'd go to jail for at least nine months if he didn't engage, he said: “You came within a hair’s breadth of going to prison. Don’t prove me right in my initial assessment of you.”