A PHD student who deliberately took a dining table and chairs from her rented home with the intention of using them as a bargaining tool against her landlord has been told she will avoid a criminal conviction if she makes a €500 donation to charity.
Kate Ryan, aged 31, who has an address at Holycross, Bruff was prosecuted for theft following an incident on June 7, 2014.
During a contested hearing, Limerick District Court was told at the time Ms Ryan, who has two young children, was a tenant at a house at Caherelly East, Grange.
The owner of the house – Keith Greville – said he was working in California at the time and had entered into a lease agreement with the defendant in April 2012.
The lease was extended in 2013 but in March 2014 a dispute arose after he sought to increase the rent.
Judge Mary Larkin was told following email correspondence between the pair, it was agreed that Ms Ryan would vacate the house by the end of June 2014. In his evidence, Mr Greville said that on June 7, 2014 he received a phone call from a neighbour who informed him that Ms Ryan had moved out and had removed property belonging to him from the house.
Mr Greville said he had not given her permission to remove any property and that he immediately phoned Caherconlish garda station from the United States.
Gardai called to the house that night and again a number of days later – at which point Mr Greville took measures to secure the property.
Being cross-examined by solicitor Brendan Gill, Mr Greville accepted he had not informed Ms Ryan that he had asked gardai to call to the house or of his intention to secure the premises.
“I was on the other side of the world, I was hearing that property had been taken so I called the guards,” he said.
Judge Larkin was told formal complaint was subsequently made to gardai and that Ms Ryan’s current home was searched under warrant.
Detective Garda Gary Laide said a dining table and chairs as well as a drawer unit from house at Caherelly East located.
In a cautioned statement, Ms Ryan denied stealing the property telling gardai that she took the table and chairs to “make up” for a €800 deposit, which had been retained by Mr Greville. Judge Larkin noted that other property had also “disappeared” from the house at Caherelly East but that Ms Ryan was not charged in relation to that property.
In her evidence, the defendant insisted she did not steal any property from Mr Greville’s house.
She accepted the table and chairs had been removed and taken to her new home but said it was by mistake and that she intended returning them.
“I used a man with a van to move the property for me – he moved items he shouldn’t have,” she said, adding that she did not realise until that evening that the table and chairs had been moved into her new home.
Ms Ryan said she acquired a trailer a number of days later but when she returned to the house at Caherelly East the gate was locked.
“I intended bringing back the table and chairs with a trailer,” she said, adding that she did not want them and had not used them.
She added that she was shocked that Mr Greville has secured the premises as she had not been due to move out until June 30.
Seeking to have the charges dismissed, Mr Gill submitted the case was a civil matter rather than a criminal matter.
“Is this the appropriate forum? Should the State be getting involved in what is essentially a dispute between landlord and tenant?” he asked.
However, Judge Larkin said she was satisfied the defendant “knew what she was doing” and had “decided in advance” that she was not going to get her deposit back.
She commented that Ms Ryan is intelligent and educated and that she is “far more culpable” than 99% of people who are brought before the court.
“This is a clever, well-educated girl who is taking this gentleman and the rest of us for fools,” she added.
However, noting Ms Ryan’s previous good record that the likely impact of a criminal conviction, she said she will strike out the case if €500 is paid to the court poor box by December 3, next.