Judge worries joke may be misread during shoplifter case

A judge joked that a woman convicted of shoplifting should steal “more than €100 worth of cosmetics” next time if she wanted to leave the country as she said she would if she re-offended.

Appearing in court was Iwona Tuchowska (36 ), with an address at Willow Park Drive, Athlone, who was pleading guilty to stealing €100 worth of cosmetics from McGorisks on December 29, none of which was recovered.

“She has had some issue with drugs,” said her solicitor, Mr Mark Cooney.

He explained how his client had been in Ireland for eight years and involved with heroin for the last five.

“You’re a mature woman. Why did you do that at 31 years of age?” enquired Judge Seamus Hughes.

“I lost my job. A Slovakian man came to my house, a friend,” she said.

Her solicitor handed in a letter from Merchant’s Quay Project that confirmed Tuchowska had fully attended all required meetings, and had provided clean urine samples “for the last few weeks”.

Inspector Nicholas Farrell pointed out that Tuchowska had six previous convictions, the most recent being from Ballinasloe District Court in January 2012, for which she received three months in jail, suspended for two years.

Acknowledging this, Judge Hughes asked for an updated probation report, saying to Mr Cooney: “I probably won’t invoke her suspended sentence, but I’ll probably give her a new one”.

“Don’t be doing this again,” said the judge to Tuchowska.

“If it happens again, I’ll leave the country,” she said.

“If you do, make sure you take a lot more than €100 worth of cosmetics,” joked the judge, before catching himsef.

“Oh, that’s going to appear in black and white, sounding like the judge is encouraging crime,” he groaned, as he remanded her on continuing bail to a later date.

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