Police blamed as man accused of stealing is cleared

AN Enniskillen man, accused of stealing a mobile phone from a bar in Enniskillen last year, had the charge against him dismissed due to the lack of CCTV evidence.
Christopher Southam (41), who address was given as no fixed abode in Belfast, had contested the charge when he appeared before Enniskillen Magistrates Court on Monday.
In his evidence, the complainant Gabriel Georgiev outlined being in the Devenish Bar on the night on April 30th when he claimed his Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phone worth £200 was taken by Southam.
Under questioning by the prosecution, Georgiev, a Bulgarian national who gave his evidence via an interpreter, said he had been in the bar waiting for a friend. Southam then entered the bar with a female and sat opposite Georgiev.
“He was rather aggressive and seemed a bit drunk. He pulled out a bottle of vodka and offered me a drink but I refused. I had a small whiskey to drink,” Georgiev told the court. “Then he saw my phone, which was three months old and offered me £200 to buy it but I refused. My phone was in front of me on the table because I was expecting a call from a friend and I couldn’t hear it because of the music.”
Georgiev said that the defendant then picked up his mobile phone and put it in his clothing. “I went up to the security staff at the bar and told them what had happened but they said it was none of their business and walked me outside. I could see inside that he (Southam) and the woman got their coats and got into a taxi. I asked the security to stop them because I knew he had my phone.”
Georgiev then walked to the police station to report the matter and spoke to officers who were in a patrol car outside. One police constable who spoke to Georgiev told the court that the injured party had been “distressed”.
“His face was flooded with tears and he was really annoyed and upset. He indicated that someone had taken his phone so I went to the Devenish and spoke to staff. I asked to view the CCTV and I recognised the defendant, who I have known for a number of years. I observed him pick up the mobile phone and put it into his right hand back pocket,” the constable said in evidence.
The officer said he made numerous attempts to locate Southam that night but was unsuccessful. When he later contacted bar staff to get a copy of the CCTV, it had expired.
Defence barrister Steffan Rafferty argued that there had been a failure on the part of the PSNI to obtain the CCTV from the bar or to carry out a viper to identify Southam. He argued that the evidence was “not properly seized or retained” and that this was both “unfair and unreliable” as there was no “physical exhibit” with which to identify his client except for the police officer’s identification in his statement.
District Judge Nigel Broderick agreed and dismissed the charge against Southam.

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