Longford woman pleads guilty to a string of shoplifting offences

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Longford court house.

A recovering drug addict who pleaded guilty to shoplifting offences and also pulled down her leggings in the middle of a busy shopping centre has been jailed .

Rachel Robertson (28) Moatefarrell, Ballinalee, Co Longford was sentenced to a total of seven months after she also pleaded guilty to a string of shoplifting offences between August and November last year.

Ms Robertson was brought before last week’s sitting of Longford District Court where evidence was given concerning her arrest, charge and caution.

The court was told the Longford woman made no reply when the charges were put to her.

At the outset of the case, defence solicitor Fiona Baxter said her client was pleading guilty to all but one of the charges.

Among the shoplifting charges included two shoplifting incidents at Cara Pharmacy, Main Street, Longford on August 25 and September 15 last year, resulting in the theft of over €200 worth of perfume.

The court was also notified of two similar thefts at Boots, Ballymahon Street, Longford in September and November last year.

On those occasions, more than €200 of face creams and moisturisers were taken while two further incidents, the first a shoplifting offence at Dealz, Market Square, Longford and the second an assault Aldi, Athlone Road, Longford were likewise added to the charges before the court.

When details concerning the latter were disclosed to a near empty courtroom owing to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, Ms Robertson shouted out: “She is dropping that charge.”

The court heard gardaí were called to SuperValu at the Hazelwood Shopping Centre, Townparks, Longford shortly after 7pm.

It was alleged Ms Robertson had been in the company of three men, one of whom has since appeared before the courts relating to the same incident.

That came amid reports the quartet were harassing a homeless person and was asked to leave by shop personnel.

Sgt Paddy McGirl said all four returned to the store moments where it was alleged Ms Robertson pulled down her leggings in front of an employee.

“On the second occasion she was approached by a worker and she called her an ugly prostitute or something to that effect, pulled down her leggings and exposed herself,” he said.

Gardaí were subsequently called and all four were identified on CCTV as a result, Judge Seamus Hughes was told.

Ms Roberston, who stood in the custody dock throughout the hearing last Tuesday insisted she had not been informed the alleged offence was due to be aired before the court.

“How come this is said to me now when I have been arrested a million times,” she claimed.

“This is the first I have heard about it. I never got that summons.”

Judge Hughes, in referring to documentation pertaining to the case, maintained a summons had in fact been served on Ms Robertson’s mother on January 14.

Asked if she had any recollection of her role in the episode, Ms Roberston said she had.

“I do remember that incident because it was the same night I was arrested for apparently not having any shoes on me,” she said.

In probing what might have sparked Ms Robertson’s sudden upsurge in crime, he was told by Ms Baxter her client’s issues revolved around one overriding issue.

“Drugs,” she said simply, adding her choice of narcotics was heroin.

“All of these (offences) were committed while she was in the throws of addiction.”

As he mulled over the charges before him, he asked Ms Robertson whether she thought a spell behind bars might do her good.

Fighting back tears, she said: “Yeah. I am on methadone and seeing drugs counsellors. I’m not ready to be out (of prison).”

Judge Hughes replied by maintaining Ms Robertson would be afforded support in a bid to kick her drug habit.

“All we want to happen is for you to get the treatment you require,” he told her.

“At the moment, you are in a very fragile state and I recognise that.”

That said, Judge Hughes said he was taking the incidents, but especially the Supervalu episode “very seriously”.

He said: “It says something about your state of mind and was an unbecoming thing of you to have done.

“It is the first incident of a girl I have come across doing such a vulgar act and the less said about it the better.”

Details were also read out into the court record over how Ms Robertson was arrested for her own safety shortly before midnight after she was found walking along the hard shoulder of the main Strokestown Road and in an unlit area.

Again, however, Ms Robertson contested the version of events which were being put before Judge Hughes.

“It was a day later that I was arrested,” she said, stressing the time of her arrest came at 3:30am and not 11:50pm which the prosecution evidence had outlined.

Prior to sentencing, Sgt Paddy McGirl said Ms Robertson had 36 previous convictions on her record, eight of which were for theft and three coming by way of robbery related offences.

The most recent came on January 25 last year at Longford Circuit Court for a section two assault and ended with the Probation Act being handed down.

Judge Hughes signed off on the case by issuing Ms Robertson with a six month sentence for the last shoplifting offence at Boots in Longford town on November 27 2019.

Four month and two month concurrent sentences were issued for shoplifting offences at Cara Pharmacy and Boots in September last year, bringing the total sentence to be served by Ms Robertson to seven months.

Judge Hughes backdated the sentence to the March 13, the date when Ms Robertson was first taken into custody.