Learn English or go to jail - Romanian thief told

A judge ordered an habitual Romanian shoplifter to sign up to an English language course before July or face 11 months in prison.

“She’ll learn a lot in 11 months in Mountjoy,” said Judge John Neilan to Mr Paul Connellan, solicitor for Ica Muntean (25 ), of Meadowbrook, Willow Park, who was in court last week (March 10 ) to plead guilty to the theft of a €5 bunch of flowers from Dunnes Stores on December 12.

Muntean had previous convictions for similar offences in Naas, Portlaoise and Ballyhaunis, the court heard.

Through a translator and Mr Connellan, her court appointed solicitor, Muntean told the court she lived with her parents and had been in Ireland for two years.

“She has a previous record,” said Mr Connellan.

“It’s a national record,’ said the judge.

“She’s had the benefit of this court in 2008,” Superintendent Aidan Glacken reminded the judge, before suggesting Muntean may have to face him again in another court soon.

“I’m always curious, and I’ve asked this lady before, why is it on March the tenth, 2010 she hasn’t a word of English?” enquired the judge.

“With all the efforts of all the people from Nigeria and Romania, she hasn’t made an effort to improve herself... Do you want 11 months and you can learn in Mountjoy college?”

Through the translator, Muntean declined this.

“She’s been making a joke of this. I’ve been watching her all morning with the other people she’s with and they’ve been treating this as a circus,” thundered the judge.

Mr Connellan sought an adjournment but Judge Neilan countered: “What’s the point?”

“I honestly believe she has an understanding of English and that when in an institute like this she may respect it.

“If on the first occasion she got a sentence it would’ve stopped her prolific thieving,”he added.

Mr Connellan told the court that Muntean “relies on the charity of the people of Athlone” to live.

“It strikes me as extraordinary that a young lady born in 1985 hasn’t taken advantage to better yourself in this country and repay this country for the dignity it has afforded you,” said Judge Neilan to Muntean, before sentencing her to 11 months in prison and adjourning it until July 14.

“Unless you can show documentary evidence you have been enrolled in some school to learn English, I will have you comitted to Mountjoy.”

He went on to criticise Muntean’s earlier behaviour in the courtroom.

“You may have no respect for me personally, but you will have respect for that emblem on the wall,” he said pointing at the harp crest.

“She has about as much respect for this court as the man in the moon has for the man in Mars.”.

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