A judge has called for “Mr or Mrs Aldi” and “Galen Weston” to appear in court and explain their zero tolerance policies of pursuing shoplifters for €8 worth of stolen meat, and €5 of stolen clothing.

Before the court on separate charges were Julie Stokes (19 ), of Spring Lawns, Longford, and Andrea Mendez (20 ), a Bolivian asylum seeker, with an address in the accommodation centre in Blyry, Athlone.

“When I was charged by the President of Ireland with the administration of justice in this district, I did not think it would be prosecuting for €8 and €5 thefts,” said Judge Seamus Hughes.

Earlier, Inspector Nicholas Farrell had outlined the charges against both women, and the judge quizzed him on the efficacy of pursuing convictions on such nominal offences.

He explained that both women had been offered the opportunity of taking an adult caution, but that both had failed to turn up at the Garda station to avail of this.a

“I take no pleasure in pursuing offences like these, and if I had the power I wouldn’t...I didn’t want to do it this way, but my hands are tied by legislation,” he simply pointed out.

Stokes appeared on foot of a bench warrant, issued on May 14, but her solicitor Mr Mark Cooney told how his client had given birth to her second child on May 11.

Judge Hughes accepted this, and asked Stokes whether she wanted a big family, but was answered with an emphatic “No”.

The inspector told the court how Stokes was being charged with two thefts, €250 worth of clothing from Dunnes Stores with one other on August 11, as well as the €8 of meat from the German store Aldi.

“Who are they? I want Mr Aldi or Mrs Aldi [the Albrecht family] in court. I want to know their opinion on the theft of €8 of meat. I want to know why they went after this young mother... I’ve now dealt with cases of a stolen bar of chocolate, and a bottle of soft drink,” said the judge.

“There’s no harm their coming to court to see how this prosecution works... This prosecution will be examined in minute detail by me,” he added.

He then heard how Mendez - who was four years in the country, and sitting a repeat Leaving Cert - was charged with taking €5 worth of clothes from Penneys.

“That’s why I want Galen Weston [the billionaire owner] in court to see what happens,” said Judge Hughes.

Inspector Farrell pointed out that it was most likely the local managers of the stores would be produced to explain their policies, and the judge remanded both women on bail until July 7 to allow time to organise this.

“Don’t book your holidays until this is heard,” he added.


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