'absconded' | 

Violent west Belfast robber (63) avoids jail after going on the run

Kieran ‘Zac’ Smyth had been sentenced in 2015 to 12 years in prison for a “violent house robbery”

Kieran Smyth

John CassidyBelfast Telegraph

A west Belfast man was today handed a four-month prison sentence suspended for a year for being unlawfully at large from jail.

Convicted robber Kieran ‘Zac’ Smyth (63), formerly of Springfield Avenue, appeared at Belfast Crown Court via videolink from Maghaberry Prison to mount a bail application.

But a defence barrister told Judge Philip Babington that the bail application was being formally withdrawn and Smyth was then re-arraigned and pleaded guilty to being unlawfully at large from the prison.

Prosecution barrister Robin Steer said Smyth had been sentenced in 2015 to 12 years in prison for a “violent house robbery”.

He said the defendant was released from custody on licence on September 14, 2019, but was recalled to prison in March 2020 for breaching the terms of his release.

“He was released on July 8, 2021, following a parole hearing. On August 27, 2021, detectives were in attendance at a Belfast police station in Belfast and he was attending to comply with his daily reporting conditions.

“He obviously had been drinking and was required to take a breath test which came back as 115 milligrams — three times the limit — which was a breach of his licence conditions.

“The next day he left his home in the morning and didn't return home by 10pm which was a breach of his curfew.”

Judge Babington was told that Smyth's licence was then revoked and police made inquiries to try and find him.

“There was a police media appeal to capture him along with inquiries made with family and friends. He didn't hand himself in and was arrested on December 21, 2021 and returned to prison.”

In a statement to police in March 2022, Smyth said he had “absconded as he feared he would be returned to prison for breaching his licence conditions”.

The court heard Smyth's long-term release date is January 4, 2024.

A defence barrister said Smyth had found the past 15 months in custody a “sobering experience both physically and metaphorically speaking”.

He added that a report from the Parole Commissioners had recommended a further release on licence given his rehabilitation work in prison, the support of his family, there had been no further violent offending and his willingness to engage with addiction services.

“They feel that if he were to continue to languish in prison until 2026 that he could be set up to fail if the support mechanisms were not in place for him. So we should strike while the anvil is hot and I submit he is a good candidate to be released,” he added.

Handing down the suspended sentence, Judge Babington told Smyth: “You got into trouble a lot in the past and now experts more knowledgeable than I am feel that you are turning the corner and making progress in the right direction.

“They feel you should be allowed into the community subject to licence and I am not going to interfere with that. Make sure don't get into trouble.”

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