A JUDGE has questioned the financial sense in bringing criminal prosecutions relating to minor shoplifting offences.
Judge Eugene O’Kelly made his comments at Limerick Court during the case of a young woman who admitted stealing a hat from a store in the city centre.
Outlining the details of the offence, Inspector Luke Conlon said the hat, which was worth €3, was taken from Penneys, O’Connell Street on November 21, last.
The culprit, who was a first-time offender, was detained by security staff on the day and the hat was recovered by gardai.
The woman’s solicitor Ted McCarthy, who was assigned through the legal aid scheme, told the court his client had spent a considerable amount of money in the same shop earlier in the day and that she had offered to pay for the hat when the offence was detected.
The prosecution was not the first to come before the court in recent months, where property, worth less than €10, was stolen.
Other recent prosecutions have involved the theft of other items of clothing, convenience food and alcohol.
Noting the nominal value of the hat, Judge O’Kelly commented that the cost of bringing the prosecution was “hundreds of times” the value of the stolen property and he questioned if such prosecutions were appropriate in the context of the economic pressures facing the country at present.
“It makes absolutely no financial sense” he said.
Insp Conlon said the management at Penneys had insisted in making a complaint and that gardai had to no option but to initiate a prosecution.
In reply, the judge asked: “What if the shop insists on bringing a prosecution relating to an item worth 20 cent?
The judge went on to acknowledge that retailers are entitled to protect their property from thieves and he said he fully accepts that if “many people take items worth €3” it can have a major impact on retailers.