A burglar was ‘caught red-handed’ when police were able to trace his whereabouts using a device he had stolen from a family home in Derry.

Alan Whelan, 31, of Corrib Court, pleaded guilty to charges of criminal damage and burglary on June 23, 2016.

The court heard that on that date around 4am he used a brick to smash the patio door of a house in Woodbrook before entering and stealing an iPad and rucksack therein.

Police were informed the iPad had a tracking device which showed where it was located.

A Public Prosecution Service (PPS) representative said the family were woken at 4am by the sound of broken glass and noticed ‘a dog in the driveway’ which they took a photo of.

Enquiries were made and the rucksack was found in a ‘black bin nearby’.  When police went to the property indicated by the tracking device they found the defendant and his uncle.

Searches were conducted and the dog which was earlier photographed was also discovered.  Whelan was arrested on suspicion of burglary and made admissions during police interview.  The iPad which cost £400 was not recovered and damage to the window cost £300.

“Entirely unsophisticated – he took his pet dog”

Defence barrister Jonathan Longman said his client pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and made admissions to police, and has been in custody since August 8 at Maghaberry Prison.  He said they were ‘entirely unsophisticated’ offences in which ‘a brick was used to smash a door and an iPad was stolen’.

He added: “(Whelan) took his pet dog with him, a photo was then taken of it and provided to police.  The same dog was found when police arrested him.”

Mr Longman told the court his client ‘was out of his head on legal highs’ when he committed the offences.  However, during consultations, he explained, the 31-year-old comes across as being ‘extremely articulate and intelligent’, and is ‘pragmatic about his own life and the criminal justice system’.

The defence barrister said Whelan ‘thrives in a structured regime’ and was a technician with PC World, but when he lost his job he ‘spiralled out of control’ and ‘drink and drugs took over’.  When in employment and leading ‘a structured lifestyle he can stay out of trouble, but when he’s not he can allow drink and drugs to take over’.

The court heard Whelan’s last matter before the court was dealt with in August 2013, when he received an eight months sentence, suspended for three years.  He ‘stayed out of trouble’ until these offences were committed in June 2016, which was two months short of that three-year period.

Mr Longman asked District Judge Barney McElholm to bear that in mind when sentencing and asked him to keep any sentence ‘as short as possible’.  The judge said the burglary was ‘exacerbated by the fact the occupants were resident at the time’.

He added, ‘it was an extremely serious matter’ and said he ‘was obliged to give some discount’ for his guilty plea, but ‘heaven knows why as he was caught red-handed’.

Whelan was sentenced to ten months in prison for the matters before the court, and two months of his suspended sentence was also imposed – taking into consideration that the three years had almost elapsed.

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