An Omagh resident told the Magistrates Court he would claim money from the Job Centre to pay compensation to a woman after stealing her wooden fence one plank at a time, on a daily basis.
Polish national Robert Stanislaw Olszak (36) of Richmond Park was using the planks as firewood in his home. He was sentenced to three months jail, suspended for two years and ordered to pay £250 compensation to the owner of the fence.
On the night of January 27, police were called to an address by the woman who reported that planks from her fence had gone missing over the previous two weeks. She was in her front room when she saw the defendant take a plank from the fence that evening. She reported that she went out of the house and Olszak shouted at her in Polish.
The woman showed the police officers where he lived and they discovered a plank of wood in a basket next to the fire. In interview he admitted taking the wood to burn.
Defence barrister Blaine Nugent, instructed by solicitor John McCaffrey, said the case “sent out a sad message”.
However District Judge Bernie Kelly replied, “No, you can’t send out the message that you can steal with aplomb because of your social situation.”
Mr Nugent added, “It is not like stealing perfume which is not a necessity. The issue is alcoholism. He is on benefits and spending the money on alcohol. It was out of necessity.”
Judge Kelly remarked, “I don‘t see alcohol as a necessity.”
The barrister also stated that his client moved to this jurisdiction 13 years ago and had worked briefly but is now suffering from alcoholism and depression.
Addressing Olszak through an interpreter, the judge said, “If you want something you pay for it. You do not steal other people’s property.”
The defendant then suggested he could apply to the Job Centre for the money to pay for the fence.
Judge Kelly stated, “I am tempted to adjourn this case to see which Job Centre will pay compensation. I know they give out a lot but is he aware the Job Centre does not pay compensation orders for court.”
She added, “Theft is a serious offence and he repeatedly stole from the same victim which is an aggravating feature.”
She gave Olszak ten weeks to pay the fine and suggested she was doing him a favour as it would eat into his drinking money.