A woman who appeared before Longford District Court last week charged under the Theft & Fraud Offences Act was sentenced to six months in prison following a hearing into the matter.
Patricia McDonnell, College Park, Longford appeared before Judge Seamus Hughes charged with driving without insurance at Lisnamuck, Longford on September 13, 2016.
She was also further charged with stealing perfume and aftershave to the value of €617 from O’Hanlon’s Pharmacy, Ballymahon on December 7 last; stealing €503 worth of aftershave and perfume from the same pharmacy on November 27, 2016; stealing food from Finn’s Filling Station, Athlone Road, Ballymahon, Co Longford on January 31, 2017 and stealing €20 worth of clothes from the Enable Ireland store at Grafton Court, Longford on September 1, 2017.
Outlining the evidence to the court, Inspector Bláthín Moran said that on September 1 last at approximately 4:20pm, the defendant entered Enable Ireland’s charity shop in Longford town and stole €20 worth of clothes from the premises.
“She left the store without paying for the items,” added the Inspector, before pointing out to the court that the defendant was on bail at the time of the offence.
Meanwhile, Inspector Moran continued with her evidence.
She told Judge Hughes that on January 26, 2017, gardaí received a report of an incident at Finn’s Centra on the Athlone Road in Ballymahon,
“The Gardaí were told that a red car had entered the forecourt with Mrs McDonnell and four of her children in it,” the Inspector continued.
“They entered the store where Mrs McDonnell ordered food from the Deli; she then placed some of the items in her bag.”
The court then heard how on November 23, 2016 the defendant entered O’Hanlon’s Pharmacy in Ballymahon with where daughter.
There she place a number of items, valued at €500, into the child’s hands and the pair left the store without paying for the goods.
“Gardaí viewed CCTV footage in respect of this matter and observed the defendant placing the goods in her daughter’s hands and then leaving the pharmacy,” added Inspector Moran.
The court was then told that the defendant entered the same store a second time and this time she proceeded to steal €600 worth of goods from the premises.
“Gardaí viewed CCTV footage and Mrs McDonnell was observed removing the items from the shelves,” said Inspector Moran.
Meanwhile, the court heard the defendant had 81 previous convictions, 52 of which were under the Theft & Fraud Offences Act.
In mitigation, the defendant’s solicitor, John Quinn said that his client had brought €150 to court in an effort to provide compensation to the injured parties in the case.
“She is hopeful that she can return with more money in respect of what is owed,” added Mr Quinn.
“The court is very familiar with the family problems here; at the time of these incidents she was down on her luck and her husband was in prison.
“He got out then and had a very bad car accident.”
“Yes, I know this,” fumed Judge Hughes, before reminding Mr Quinn that the defendant’s husband had been disqualified from driving at the time he crashed his car.
Mr Quinn also pointed out to the court that Mrs McDonnell received €625 per week in social welfare payments and was “stuck for money” at the time of the thefts.
“She was in a very bad place at the time, Judge.”
During his deliberations on the matter Judge Hughes said that Mrs McDonnell’s €625 per week in social welfare payments was more money than a lot of people had these days.
“And it’s not even enough for you Mrs McDonnell, so you go around then and steal if from other people’s mouths”.
“Why do you think you can go around stealing aftershave and perfume from local businesses?,” the Judge fumed.
“This is absolutely unacceptable behaviour.”
Meanwhile, Mr Quinn continued with his mitigation.
“This woman has a very large family and there are serious problems,” he added.
“She is trying to do her best.”
“I am looking at the havoc caused to other families around here by Mrs McDonnell and her children and I can tell you now, Mr Quinn, the day of soft, soft approach is over,” Judge Hughes fumed.
“As the mother of a large family her best should be to set a good example for her children, yet she goes off stealing from shops, and this is the example she is setting for her large family.
The Judge subsequently sentenced Mrs McDonnell to six months in prison for the theft at O’Hanlon’s Pharmacy on December 7, 2016.
She was also disqualified from driving for 15 years after the Judge convicted her in respect of the road traffic matter before the court.
The court was then told that the defendant would appeal the sentence to Longford Circuit Court.