NewsNorthern Ireland

No jail for man who stole neighbour's fence one plank at a time

Northern IrelandBy Steven Moore
Robert Stanislaw Olszak
Robert Stanislaw Olszak

This is the Omagh man who was ‘nailed’ in court this week for nicking his neighbour’s fence – one plank at a time!

Robert Stanislaw Olszak (35) was ‘hammered’ by a judge who handed him a suspened jail term for what she described as a “serious of-fence”.

Judge Bernie Kelly paid little heed to the defence that Olszak had only been nicking planks to use as firewood because he’d spent all his money on booze.

The Sunday World caught up with Olszak on Friday and he told us he was going to pay for the damage he had caused.

Olszak had been pinching planks from his neighbour’s fence in the affluent Richmond Park area of Killyclogher, Omagh, where he had been renting a detached bungalow.

The bemused neighbour couldn’t figure out why sections of her wooden fence kept disappearing.

That was until she caught her sticky-fingered neighbour in the act!

Olszak, who moved to Northern Ireland from Poland 13 years ago, has since moved from Richmond Park where a neighbour told the Sunday World he had been “excluded” from the area for what he had done.

We spoke to Olszak at his new address in Strule Park where he said he was “sorry” but otherwise said he didn’t understand English.

During his court hearing at Omagh Magistrates Court this week – where he was convicted of criminal damage and theft – he spoke to the judge through an interpreter.

Judge Bernie Kelly remarked that it was rather strange he had been living in Omagh for 13 years but had very little grasp of the local language.

She sentenced the Polish national to three months in jail but suspended the term for two years and she ordered him to pay his neighbour £250 compensation.

Details of the incident were revealed in court.

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 an 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.”

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 missing pieces of 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 10 weeks to pay the fine and suggested she was doing him a favour as it would eat into his drinking money.