18 Aug 2022

Drug addict from Derry jailed for stealing teenage girl's handbag which contained her asthma inhaler

A drug addict who was recorded on CCTV cameras stealing a teenage girl’s handbag which contained her asthma inhaler has been jailed for sixteen months. Robert James Payne,24, from Clooney Terrace in the Waterside area of the city appeared at Derry Crown Court on Thursday where admitted committing the offence in Hawkin Street in the city centre on the evening of February 25 of this year. A prosecution barrister told Judge Philip Babington that the student was walking home after she'd earlier attended a church service with family members. She was texting on her mobile 'phone when the incident took place. "She was suddenly grabbed from behind by the defendant,” the prosecutor said. “She initially thought it was a prank by a friend or family member but then the defendant started shouting and pulling at her handbag which was on her shoulder. “She tried to hold on to it but he pulled it so hard that the strap broke and then he ran away with it", the barrister added. The court heard the student told the police that the incident lasted only a few seconds but it left her feeling ‘scared and panicky’. The court was told that after he'd stolen the handbag Payne returned to his bed and breakfast accommodation, and the following morning the stolen handbag was found by a cleaner. By that point the defendant had left the premises, but the handbag contained an envelope with the victim's name and address on it. Payne was arrested two days later and denied any involvement in the incident. However, when he was re-interviewed two months later and shown CCTV footage of the robbery he told the police: “I'm going to be honest and tell you what happened.” He told the police he was under the influence of Xanax at the time and didn't remember the robbery and also apologised for his actions. Defence barrister Eoghan Devlin said the first thing he had been asked to do by Payne was to apologise to the student. He said Payne had not used gratuitous violence nor was his offence pre-meditated nor sophisticated. Mr. Devlin said it was an opportunistic offence and an act of desperation. Judge Babington said Payne had ripped the handbag from his young victim. “I feel this court has no alternative but to send you straight to jail,” he told Payne, before sentencing him to sixteen months.

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