Mum jailed for ‘shocking’ thefts from the vulnerable
By Martina Nee
A district court judge described as “shocking” the actions of a woman who deliberately targetted the vulnerable by stealing handbags from people in hospital, one from a woman who had been praying in a church while receiving treatment for a serious illness, and taking charity boxes from a number of premises.
Judge Mary Fahy made the comment at Galway District Court on Monday before imposing the maximum sentence of 23 months on mother of five Anne Marie Barrett (33) of 21 The Meadows, Ballybrit. Barrett was brought in custody before Judge Fahy and pleaded guilty to a number of thefts.
Inspector Mick Coppinger told the court that on September 11, 2011, the defendant entered Halfords at Galway Retail Park with another person and stole a Trax gents bycicle valued at €75 and which was not recovered. At Joyces Supermarket on November 11, 2011, Barrett stole a lady’s handbag valued at €350 and which contained €300 in cash. Six days later Barret entered GMIT on the Dublin Road and stole a Console charity box containing approximately €75 and was later identified on CCTV.
A woman had been shopping in Dunnes Stores at Westside Shopping Centre on January 23, 2012, and turned around to find that her handbag had been taken from the trolley. The handbag contained €600 in cash, bank cards, VHI card, children’s allowance card, Dunnes Stores savings stamps worth €90, a pair of glasses, make-up, perfume, house keys, and Galleon Restaurant gift vouchers worth €100. The defendant was identified on CCTV but none of the property was recovered. On March 3, 2012, Barrett entered The Curiosity Shop on Merchant’s Road at 4.55pm and took a charity box containing €50, the property of St Vincent de Pauls. Barrett was identified on CCTV but nothing was recovered. A worker at Centra on the Dublin Road had been preparing the store for the day on April 7, 2012, when Barrett entered and reached over the counter to take the €600 float money from the till. At 4.15pm on April 13, 2012, Barrett entered the Bon Secours Hospital on the Dublin Road and made her way to the chapel sacristy with intent to commit theft. Inspector Coppinger further explained that the defendant had been in an area “she shouldn’t have gone” and took the chapel petition box, containing €100, and was seen leaving with the box which was concealed under her jacket. Barrett was arrested on April 16, 2012, and questioned in relation to a series of thefts, one of which took place at Born Clothing two days earlier. Barrett had entered the store and took a charity box containing €74.60 in cash and a number of charm bracelets which had been at the till and valued at €100. Barrett was also questioned in relation to an offence on April 11 in which she entered the Galway Clinic at Doughiska at 11am and took a handbag from a woman which contained bank cards, €100 worth of Brown Thomas vouchers, and €75 in cash. On April 15, at 3.30pm Barrett was at DID Electrical, Briarhill Business Park, when she emptied the contents - €20 in coins - of a charity box into her bag. A charity box containing €80 in cash was also taken from Dunnes Stores in Knocknacarra on April 11, 2012.
“It’s incredible almost, that someone would be so proficient in taking so much... It was not opportunistic, it was all thought out and planned,” said Judge Fahy.
Inspector Coppinger then said that the most serious offence was committed on January 24, 2012, when Barrett entered the church at University Hospital Galway and when a woman had left down her bag for Communion the defendant stole it. The court heard that the handbag had contained €500 specifically because the woman was going through treatment at the hospital and did not want to have to go to the bank. “This lady was receiving treatment and didn’t need the stress,” said the inspector. When Barrett had appeared in court previously she was given the opportunity to offer compensation, however, the court heard this week that she failed to come up with the money and had re-offended while on bail.
“Obtaining the money [for the injured party] was more important in my view. A promise was made, the defendant never had any notion of paying it, it was just a cynical exercise to add insult to injury,” said Judge Fahy who was then told that Barrett has 31 previous convictions mainly for theft.
Defence solicitor Adrian MacLynn said that his client has had difficulties in the past and continues to suffer from a heroin addiction. “Most of her actions were motivated by the desire to get money to feed her addiction,” said Mr MacLynn, who added that while in custody Barrett has been engaging with rehabilitation services.
“The charges are actually quite shocking. This lady targeted vulnerable people... She was taking what she could and taking money from people in hospital saying a prayer. For a mother to stoop so low and to compound it by promising to pay and then that did not happen,” said Judge Fahy, who convicted Barrett and imposed the 23 month sentence as well as a five year disqualification from driving as the defendant had used her vehicle in the commission of a crime. Leave to appeal was granted with the conditions that if granted bail Barrett would abide by a curfew of between 10pm and 10am and not to enter UHG or Bon Secours except for treatment and not to enter any of the commercial premises where offences were committed.