herald

Sunday 20 August 2017

No conviction for mum who stole to feed 5 children

A MOTHER of five who claimed she was forced to steal food and clothes for her children has left court without a conviction.

Guna Levcenkova (30) thanked members of the public for their support and it emerged that strangers had driven from Belfast to bring her food and schoolbooks after reading about her plight.

At Dundalk District Court yesterday Judge William Hamill heard she had completed 40 hours of voluntary work and as a result has been offered a job on a Community Employment Scheme.

He said: "Something good has come out of it." He then applied the Probation Act which means he did not proceed to record a conviction against her for any of the 11 theft charges from 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Previous courts heard she was stealing to feed her children. Ms Levcenkova has addresses at Ath Leathan, Racecourse Road, Dundalk, and Beechmount Drive and Cox's Demesne, also in Dundalk.

The case was first before Judge Hamill in 2011 and her solicitor Sean T O'Reilly told the court that at that time she was not in receipt of any welfare benefit or financial support from the HSE.

Judge Hamill then invited representatives from social welfare, the HSE and community welfare to court to explain why the accused had been refused assistance. As a result her court case made national and local news headlines and she received some emergency payments from the HSE.

Yesterday, speaking after the case concluded, Mr O'Reilly said that his client arrived in Ireland in 2009 and got social welfare payments in July 2012.

He said it was 18 months after she first appeared before the district court until she received welfare payments. She did receive three emergency payments from the HSE in the intervening period, he added.

Yesterday he revealed that the 30-year-old mother had left "appalling circumstances" in Latvia to come to Ireland and had wanted a better life for her five daughters who are aged four, five, eight, nine and 11.

"She had great help from the people of Dundalk and from people who heard about her.

"People she didn't know drove from Belfast with food and schoolbooks and toys for the children.

"She is now in a position to contribute to society and is a testament to Judge Hamill who did not allow her and her family to drop into delinquency. Probation officer Sheena Norton also provided her assistance," Mr O'Reilly added.

Speaking with Mr O'Reilly's assistance, Guna said: "I want to thank the judge for his help and the people of Dundalk and other people who helped me."

Mr O'Reilly added, "the people of Ireland were better to Guna than the system."

hnews@herald.ie

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