A JUDGE has described as “extremely serious” claims that a man accused of shoplifting was told by gardai to “just turn up in court and plead guilty” to the charges.
The claims were made at Limerick Court during the case of a 46-year-old man who pleaded guilty to stealing several items, including ten bottles of beer, from Dunnes Stores, Harvey’s Quay last month.
When his case was initially, called the defendant said he wanted to plead guilty in accordance with the advice he had received from the female garda who arrested him.
Upon hearing this, Judge Eugene O’Kelly adjourned the case briefly to allow the accused seek legal advice.
When the case was called again, solicitor Darach McCarthy said his client was standing over his earlier comments and wished to enter a guilty plea.
In direct evidence, the defendant - a father of one - admitted stealing the items
He told the court when he asked the garda who arrested him what to do next she informed him he didn’t need a solicitor.
“She told me, all you need to do is plead guilty,” he said.
Judge O’Kelly said the claims were very serious and he said he had grave concerns that the man had been given “purported legal advice to plead guilty”.
However, Sgt Donal Cronin, said he would find it “incredible” if the named garda had given advice of the nature outlined by the defendant.
“I have no doubt, whatsoever, he is mistaken in what he (the defendant) is saying,” said Sgt Cronin who added that the garda was highly experienced and professional.
“She wouldn’t have given that sort of advice, there is no way that would happen,” he said.
Mr McCarthy conceded his client had been caught red-handed by security staff at the store and he told the court he had been intoxicated when he committed the offence.
He said his client, who has no previous convictions, had cooperated with gardai following his arrest and that he had pleaded guilty to the charges.
The property was recovered and returned he added.
In the circumstances, Judge O’Kelly said he was willing to give the defendant a chance.
He indicated he would not record a conviction if €50 is paid to the court poor by March 27.