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no apology Shameless thief who robbed from charity that saved his life says he will pay 'nothing back'

Stephen McAleese was previously jailed after complaining to cops the drugs he'd bought were rubbish


Stephen McAleese

Stephen McAleese

Stephen McAleese

A shameless drug addict - once jailed after complaining to cops the drugs he'd bought were rubbish - has boasted about robbing a charity that saved his life.

Stephen McAleese stole £2,800 (€3,300) from the charity Tidal which had literally taken him off a "freezing" park bench and helped set him up in a new life - and he spent it all on crack cocaine.

Jailing McAleese for eight months this week at Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena, District Judge Nigel Broderick was scathing in his criticism of the 31-year-old, saying: "I cannot think of a worse case in terms of a breach of trust and in terms of stealing money that was there to help the community."

Tidal is a community-based charity in Toome which does fantastic work helping people in the area access support and find employment.

The clearly incensed judge said the secretary of Tidal had "literally taken you off a park bench one freezing February evening" and then helped McAleese with medical appointments and obtaining Housing Executive accommodation "and then you make an outrageous allegation against her that she stole your money, totally unfounded and malicious".

The judge said: "Armed with some knowledge of where there is some cash, you proceed to break in and steal £2,800 and she felt personally obliged to pay that money back out of her own pocket."


Stephen McAleese talks to reporter Steven Moore (left)

Stephen McAleese talks to reporter Steven Moore (left)

Stephen McAleese talks to reporter Steven Moore (left)

The court, which later freed McAleese to appeal the sentence, was told he was "ashamed and disgusted" by his actions.

However, he seemed to have lost those feelings of remorse when we called at his home in Ballydugennan Villas on Wednesday.

After identifying ourselves, he responded: "Do a big write-up about my case - I got accused in the wrong."

When asked if he was denying stealing the charity's cash, he shouted: "No I did it alright. They had robbed me so I robbed them back.

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"I was addicted to crack cocaine and heroin and they had taken my bank card for 12 months so the first opportunity I got I robbed them!"

When asked if he had paid it back or intended to pay the £2,800 back, he snorted: "No chance, sure I got jailed for eight months didn't I?

"I'll be paying nothing back." McAleese seemed keen to tell his story but another man in the property made it clear we were not welcome.

Stephen McAleese is a regular at court and has 58 previous convictions, many either drug offences or crimes connected to trying to get money to buy drugs.

We can reveal three years ago he was jailed for five months in one of the most bizarre cases to come before the courts.

He actually walked into Ballymena police station to make an official complaint that the cocaine and cannabis he had bought were "inferior".

He'd claimed he'd bought the drugs from another resident of a Simon Community hostel but he ended up getting convicted of possession of cocaine and cannabis.

In the same case he also admitted a number of other offences, including the handling of £110 worth of stolen air fresheners taken from Poundland in Ballymena's Tower Centre and a series of driving offences.


Stephen McAleese

Stephen McAleese

Stephen McAleese

Last week, details of McAleese's latest criminal episode was laid bare before the court.

He was due to contest the charges but entered an 11th hour guilty plea to burglary of the offices of Tidal on Main Street in his home town between December 18 and 20, 2020 where he stole £2,800 in cash.

In court, a prosecuting lawyer described how the charity secretary effectively took McAleese under her wing and, as well as helping him get his life back on track, there was an arrangement where she would regularly lend him money but not before the initial amount was paid back.

That continued until McAleese accused her of stealing his money but the court heard that when he was in the office one day, he had seen the cash in a envelope in a cupboard.

When the secretary went back to work, she discovered the office had been broken into, a hole punched through the cupboard and the cash-filled envelope stolen.

However, McAleese had cut himself when he broke in and from DNA taken from the blood sample, cops were able to trace it back to him.

He was arrested and interviewed three months later and although he couldn't provide any explanation as to why his blood would be there, he told officers: "Do I look like I have £2,800 - I'm skint!"

McAleese maintained that stance until the day of his trial when he eventually confessed his guilt and defence counsel Neil Moore suggested McAleese had difficulty accepting it was him because he was so "ashamed and disgusted".

"It appeared that the entirety of the money went on crack cocaine, an awful waste of money, but it shows you where his life was at the time," said the barrister, revealing that since then, McAleese has been undergoing drug addiction treatments.

The lawyer conceded that given the "gross breach of trust," coupled with McAleese's 58 previous convictions, "it's undoubtedly the case that you may think the only matter for consideration is the length of imprisonment to be imposed" but he urged the judge to "take a step back" and consider the recommendation of the probation board who had suggested they could liaise with addiction services and mental health to address the thief's problems.

Although Mr Moore said McAleese claims he wanted to pay the money back, District Judge Broderick said he would not make any such order as "I think that all you would do is steal the money from someone else".

Although McAleese was taken to the cells where he was given a copy of his victim's statement to read and consider, he was freed on £500 bail pending an appeal of the sentence.

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