Sentencing diagnosed kleptomaniac Karl Forrest at Antrim Crown Court, Judge Neil Rafferty QC told the 42-year-old he considered whether the sentence could be suspended but from the defendant's point of view, “I have concluded unfortunately that it cannot.”
“The aggravating factors are such that only a custodial sentence will meet the justice of the case,” concluded the judge who ordered Forrest to serve half his sentence in jail and half under supervised licence conditions.
He told the court: “There is a body of case law that indicates a postman stealing from the mail is a significant breach of trust….there is a need for deterrence to be coupled with sentencing principles in offences of this type.”
It was in November last year that Forrest, from Meadowvale Park in Limavady, entered guilty pleas to each of the ten charges against him - three of theft and seven of committing fraud by false representation on various dates between 1 January 2013 and 7 August 2019.
Sentencing was adjourned to allow time for various medical and psychiatric reports to be prepared and giving evidence to the court today, Consultant Psychiatrist Dr. Paul Devine said he had diagnosed “impulse control disorder,” otherwise known as kleptomania.
He also testified that it was “unique” to both his experience and research he conducted that unlike other diagnosed kleptomaniacs, Forrest had gained the same “buzz” from both the thefts themselves and by “monetising” his ill gotten gains which in his case were various gift cards.
It was that aspect of the case that defence counsel Damien Halleron sought to argue made the case exceptional and with full restitution made by the disgraced postman, that opened up a “very narrow gateway to get through” to a suspended sentence.
During his sentencing remarks, Judge Rafferty described how Forrest had been working as a postman in his home town when Royal Mail managers became suspicious “that the defendant might be interfering with the mail.”
Conducting an “integrity test,” they placed a card, with £10 inside and addressed to outside Forrest’s postal area, into a mail sorting tray and noted that he took the card.
“When he came back on duty he was confronted and he replied after caution: ‘It was like a game. I have everything I have taken. Have depression. No life outside work. Not sleeping. Wanted to get caught. It’s all above the built in freezer. Everything is there. I knew this morning I was going to get caught but went ahead’.”
An initial search of Forrest uncovered the cash from inside the decoy card along with a Pritt stick of glue which he thief admitted he used to reseal the envelopes he opened.
Given his confessions his home was also searched and in behind the freezer in his kitchen, cops uncovered £6360, €1390, $300 US dollars, $50 Australian dollars, 100 Polish Zlotis, two commemorative coins and 85 gift cards.
Investigations on the gift cards revealed that Forrest had used the stolen cards at a range of shops including Debenhams, Next, Marks and Spencer, Ulster Stores and at the Roe Park Resort.
In total Forrest benefitted to the tune of £11,500, all of which has been repaid.
Judge Rafferty said while he was satisfied that Forrest “does suffer from impulse control disorder” which, along with his guilty pleas and clear record, were mitigating features, he said there were multiple aggravating factors including the “significant breach of trust,” the protracted period of the frauds and the “impact of the offences on the public and public confidence.”
One example which was “particularly mean,” said the judge, was “the elderly grandparent sending a small amount of money to a grandchild, that’s the trust that is reposed in the postal services and it is for that reason that there’s a significant degree of breach of trust.”
Despite Mr Halleron’s submissions that the diagnosis of kleptomania made the case unique and therefore exceptional and would justify a suspended sentence, Judge Rafferty said he had concluded the medical condition should be reflected by a lower sentence rather than being suspended.
“I considered whether or not this was an exceptional case and I have concluded that it’s not,” said the judge, “the aggravating factors are such that only a custodial sentence will meet the justice of the case.”