Northern Ireland

Strabane woman granted bail in £10 jeans theft appeal

A Strabane woman jailed for stealing a £10 pair of jeans has been granted bail in the High Court.

Alison Hewitt, 27, from Patterson Park, Strabane, was freed on her own surety of £250 until an appeal against her conviction and sentence can be heard.

She appeared by video link from Hydebank Women's Prison.

Ms Hewitt was convicted on Wednesday after a five-day trial and sentenced to three months in prison.

Lord Morrow has tabled questions to the Justice Minister regarding the case.

Her family has described her sentence as "madness".

Londonderry Crown Court heard Ms Morrow had taken three pairs of jeans to a changing room but returned two. Police found the third in her baby's pram.

'Severe punishment'

The judge said she had been given several opportunities to plead guilty.

Lord Morrow, who is chairman of the assembly's justice committee, has asked David Ford to determine whether a similar sentence had "been handed out in the past".

"There is no doubt that a three-month prison sentence is a severe punishment for a relatively minor crime, particularly given how leniently much more serious crimes have been treated in the past," he said.

Lord Morrow said that at the justice committee this week, it was revealed that it costs £95,000 a year to house a prisoner in Northern Ireland.

"It must be asked whether it is worth spending nearly £25,000 of public funds to imprison someone for stealing an item costing £10," he said.

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