Two women, part of a professional pickpocketing organisation, were both sentenced to seven months in jail for targetting unsuspecting Christmas shoppers during two trips to Galway, and stealing more than €400 of hard earned cash.
At Galway District Court on Monday Stanka Daneva (22 ) and Maryanne Petrova (31 ), both Bulgarian nationals with no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft.
Garda Sean Sheehy told the court that on December 13 at 2.30pm the defendants entered the Euro 2 shop in Eglinton Street and targeted a woman who was browsing. Daneva distracted the woman while the other reached into a backback and stole a purse valued at €10 and which contained €200 in cash. The following day, the defendants entered the Euro 2 shop on Mainguard Street where Petrova distracted a woman while Daneva stole her purse, which was valued at €50 and contained €240 in cash. Garda Sheehy added that the incidents were caught on CCTV and that the two defendants carried out the thefts in a “professional manner” as both injured parties had been completely unaware that their purses had been stolen; one found out when she went to pay at the till while the other only discovered her purse missing when she arrived back at her car. The court then heard that, when questioned, Daneva admitted that they were part of a “pickpocketing organisation”.
“Obviously with it being so near Christmas people have more cash on them than normal... They took hard-earned cash from innocent people coming up to Christmas,” said Judge Fahy.
Under cross-examination by defence solicitor Adrian MacLynn Garda Sheehy explained that during interviews the defendants said that they had come to Galway looking for work, that they had met a woman on Skype but that when they arrived the woman never answered her phone. Mr MacLynn said that Petrova had come to the country on Tuesday, December 13, looking for work while Daneva, the mother of two children aged seven and three, has been in the country since last July and both had been staying in a hostel in Dublin. He added that his clients have compensation to the value of the money taken.
“There’s a lot of question marks over why they were in Galway, who they were working for? It was done very professionally and what compounds it is they weren’t happy with what they got and they came back,” said Judge Fahy.
Garda Sheehy then informed the court that both women had travelled from Dublin to Galway on a bus, went back up that evening, and returned to Galway the next day.
“These were very busy shops, people could be distracted with Christmas songs blaring. They played their cards well but thankfully through the guard’s good detection work and the CCTV they were caught,” said Judge Fahy before convicting both women and imposing a six month jail sentence for the first theft charge and for the sencond theft charge a six month sentence was imposed but suspended for two years on condition that they stay away from Galway city and county and be of good behaviour.
However, when an application for legal aid was made an issue over the women’s address arose; in the application “a hostel in Dublin” was given as their address.
“The taxpayers of Ireland are expected to pay for legal aid for people we don’t know the address for. They can make their way up and down to Dublin but they can’t produce an address? I’m not happy with that. Unless I get more than that I’m going to change the order,” said a disgruntled Judge Fahy before noting that a lot of the crying by the defendants was “put on”. “They seem to turn on the waterworks whenever it seems to suit, when they are asked hard questions,” she said.
After a short adjournment and following consultation with his clients through an interpreter, Mr MacLynn told the court that his clients have been staying at the hostel Durban House, 69 Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin 1. However, Garda Sheehy then said that the defendants had been asked numerous times about their address and “bus station is all they said”.
“I don’t feel a suspended sentence and the conditions attached would mean anything to them. They have no address, they were able to stay in a hostel and come down to Galway and to go up again, that’s €10 up and down, and the next day again. These people have not been telling the truth to this court,” said Judge Fahy before changing the six month suspended sentence to one month in jail to be served consecutively to the sentence already imposed. Leave to appeal was granted.