School caretaker stole fruit meant for disadvantaged kids
A former school caretaker has been found guilty of stealing fruit that was meant to be given to disadvantaged pupils as part of a healthy food initiative.
Thomas Byrne (55) had contested eight counts of theft of bags of bananas, apples and oranges worth about €66 from Scoil Fhursa in Kilmore, in Dublin 5, between February 24 and March 7 in 2014, when he was employed as a caretaker.
However, he was found guilty yesterday at Dublin District Court by Judge Ann Ryan.
Father-of-two Byrne, who is now doing a history and archaeology course in Trinity College, has no prior criminal convictions, the court heard.
The judge adjourned sentencing for a report on his suitability for participating in a restorative justice programme.
School principal Martin Stynes told Judge Ryan that the HSE and Dublin City Council had run a healthy-eating programme for schools.
He said Scoil Fhursa was in a socially disadvantaged area and the aim of the scheme was for the pupils to try different foods.
Mr Stynes said there were inconsistencies in the supply of fruits for the children.
He asked the secretary to keep an eye on the records of what was supplied to the school, he said, adding that the caretaker had responsibility for some of the fruit.
He claimed Byrne - of Howth Road, Raheny, Dublin - told him "some days we get more, some days we get less, you cannot depend on the delivery".
Mr Stynes said "given that this person was trusted in his area of work, I took him at his word".
School secretary Catherine Fowler confirmed the shortfall of fruit.
John Mooney, the owner of Glanmore Foods, said the fruit was delivered to schools four days a week. He confirmed the amount of food on the order for Scoil Fhursa.
Byrne's counsel told the court his client thought some of the fruit left in a basket outside his office was freely available and he did not see a problem taking it.
The court prosecution followed his refusal to accept an adult caution.
CCTV was shown of him bringing bags out to his car on a number of dates.
Judge Ryan was satisfied that if anyone else had access to the fruit they would have been easy to see.