A MAN burgled the 'police station' at Belfast International Airport whilst taking part in a security guard training course, Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena, was told on Tuesday.
Stephen Dickson (48), of Lavens Drive in north Belfast, pleaded guilty to burglary in which he stole tobacco from the 'police area' on October 26 last year.
The defendant appeared at court via video link from his solicitor's office on Tuesday.
A prosecutor said at 11.15am on October 26 police received a report that a pouch of tobacco and rolling papers had been stolen from a "storeroom in the police station" at the airport.
The defendant was located in the terminal building and arrested. The tobacco and rolling papers were found on Dickson, Court News NI can report.
When interviewed he admitted taking the items, saying it had been a "moment of madness".
The prosecutor said Dickson told police that that morning his partner had told him she was "leaving him" and he had left the house without his cigarettes.
The prosecutor said the defendant said "he wasnt thinking and needed to have a smoke."
The prosecution lawyer said Dickson apologised for the theft and offered to buy a new "pouch of tobacco".
She said the police station was located at an external area of the airport.
A defence lawyer said Dickson "accepts full responsibility".
Following the incident with his partner at home, the defendant also suffered a tyre blow-out on his way to the airport, he said.
The solicitor said the defendant had "acted impulsively" without premeditation and "no damage" had been caused whilst getting the tobacco.
The lawyer said Dickson accepted straight away he shouldnt have done it and had offered to "make good the loss".
The solicitor said although the defendant had not been employed by Belfast International Airport the incident happened when he was at the airport "in the capacity of his employment and was passing by this opened office. He didn't force entry".
The lawyer said the defendant had been "completing a training course as a security guard. He actually lost his job as a result of this incident".
The solicitor said that up to that point Dickson had an "impeccable" work record and had been with a textile firm for 26 years but was made redundant as a result of the pandemic.
The lawyer said Dickson, on the day of the court hearing, had an interview for a job as a warehouse worker in Belfast.
The defendant, the solicitor said, had no previous convictions.
He added: "He does some children's coaching of MMA (mixed martial arts)".
District Judge Nigel Broderick said it was a "bizarre" case and it was not the "most common way of getting a cigarette, getting entry to a police area of the airport".
The judge said it was a "breach of trust" case.
He said it was a "serious matter" as the area was not publicly accessible and was "for staff only" and Dickson had been there in connection with "training".
The judge told the defendant: "In my view you did abuse that position of trust".
He ordered the defendant to do 150 hours of Community Service which he said was a "direct alternative" to jail.
- Main picture: Belfast International Airport.