A WOMAN has admitted taking €15 in change from a collection basket in the middle of mass in a brazen theft at St Michael’s Church.
Pamela McNamara, 25, of McGarry House, Alphonsus Street, had gone into the church with her boyfriend as services were ongoing at around 5pm on Sunday, March 4 last.
Sgt Donal Cronin told Limerick District Court that as the basket was being passed around, €15 had been taken from it.
Five days later, gardai went to the neighbouring pastoral centre on Denmark Street to view CCTV footage. Pamela McNamara, somebody Sgt Cronin said was well-known to gardai, was identified and later made admissions.
McNamara also pleaded guilty to a separate offence of handling stolen property - a passport and a wallet - after she was approached by gardai at Clancy Strand on September 9 last.
The accused has accumulated 61 previous convictions, a record Judge Eugene O’Kelly described as “dreadful”.
“Congregations in churches,” he remarked, “are expected to contribute; the cashflow is not supposed to be going in the other direction. It is not the expectation that the collection would be stolen by Ms McNamara and her boyfriend.”
The accused’s boyfriend is serving two months in prison having been convicted last week.
Ted McCarthy, solicitor, said his client had only lately been given access to her children - all four of whom are in care - because she has “started to comply with the requests of the HSE social worker to do something about her drug problem”.
Before the court was a recovering heroin addict whose offending “is motivated by the addiction from which she suffers”. But she had been giving samples to Slainte drug treatment agency for the past six weeks and was clean to date, Mr McCarthy said.
She had been “effectively homeless” for much of the past 18 months and the offences had occurred at a time when she had gone “off the rails”.
Mc McNamara was sentenced to two months in prison for handling. A six-month sentence for theft was suspended for 12 months.