A woman who pickpocketed an elderly man on his way into Mass was ordered to pay him €200 compensation in the District Court this week (March 14 ) or spend a month in prison.
The court had earlier heard from Inspector Nicholas Farrell how Gardaí had received a complaint at around lunchtime on October 26 from a 63-year-old man about some beggars in the vicinity of St Mary’s Church, and that he believed one who brushed up against him had relieved him of €150.
Gardaí who attended were directed towards a female suspect, who was walking away from the church in the direction of the Little Theatre.
Gardaí apprehended Rozalia Muntean (31 ), a mother of two with an address in Meadowbrook, Willow Park, Athlone, and brought her back to church “where she took out the €150 from beneath her skirt and threw it on the floor”.
Muntean had a number of previous convictions, including one for trading without a licence in Cork, for which she was fined €1,000, and one from Athlone last year for begging, before it was decriminalised.
“This man was pickpocketed in the church? An elderly man on his way to morning Mass?” asked Judge Seamus Hughes.
“It was in the vicinity of the church,” said the inspector.
“My client wishes to convey her apologies. This was an opportunistic crime. She picked a pocket. She has no other income other than begging,” explained her solicitor, Mr Paul Connellan.
“That’s no offence,” reminded the judge.
“This is her fourth conviction. Has she compensation? If she hasn’t she’s going to prison. She’s part of a large family who go thieving and entering properties,” said the judge.
“Has she €250 for this elderly man who was aware enough to notify the Gardaí? I wonder how many have money taken and don’t notice until they get home?” demanded the judge.
At this point an accompanying family member approached Mr Connellan and handed in the €250, €50 of which was allocated as a fine.
“She’s lucky to avoid a month in prison, and I would’ve put a special order on it [her conviction sheet] to ask the governor to ensure she served a full term,” said Judge Hughes.