Circuit Court Judge Keenan Johnston
Two Co Longford mothers who were sentenced to nine months in prison after being caught red handed with over €3,500 of stolen tools and digger batteries, last week saw their convictions overturned on foot of an appeal.
Michaela Liddy (25) and Cindy Stokes (21) both of Ballyminion, Longford appealed the severity of their nine month prison sentences for shoplifting and handling stolen property respectively at 44 Cluain Na Sibhe, Killashee on October 25 2018.
Ms Liddy was charged with the theft of 17 boxes of various power tools including angle grinders, drills and sanders from Aldi, Athlone Road, Longford.
The total value of tools taken, which were stolen following two separate incidents, totalled €1,200.
Ms Stokes was charged with possessing stolen property, among which comprised 11 digger and eight lorry batteries valued at €2,350.
The items were retrieved by gardaí after a search warrant was obtained, resulting in both women being arrested.
State solicitor Mark Connellan said both defendants, who are sisters-in-law, admitted their guilt at an early stage with all items having since been retrieved.
Defending, Nichola Delaney BL said neither of the women were the orchestrators behind the incidents and both gave voluntary statements to gardaí at the earliest opportunity.
She also added the pair had recently undergone a bereavement with the sudden and tragic death of Ms Liddy’s partner and father to her three children.
Currently pregnant expecting her fourth child, it was also revealed the deceased was brother to Ms Stokes.
Ms Delaney said given the extenuating personal circumstances involved, she would be seeking the court’s discretion to effectively dismiss the charges under the terms of the Probation Act.
Listening on, Judge Keenan Johnson said such a measure would be “overly optimistic” given the quantity of goods involved.
Equally, he played down the prospect of the court imposing any community service orders involved in view of the fact both women were mothers to young children.
In determining sentence, Judge Johnson said the court had to take account of both aggravating and mitigating factors.
“The court is obligated to send out a strong message that people who engage in this type of shoplifting which is a huge source of concern to legitimate retailers endeavouring to make a living and pay their taxes that they will receive a harsh sentence, not so much to punish them but to send out a clear message that people who engage in this type of activity can expect a harsh sentence,” he said.
The mitigating circumstances involved both defendants submitting early guilty pleas, a lack of prior convictions and the impact any custodial sentence might have both on them and their young children.
Both nine month sentences were suspended for five years on the proviso both women enter into a €500 bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for that length of time.