herald

Thursday 22 August 2019

Ban on reporting case of woman with 'record 648 convictions' lifted

Jennifer Armstrong
Jennifer Armstrong

A gagging order banning press reports on new charges against one of Ireland's most prolific criminals has been lifted following a successful legal challenge by Independent News and Media.

Judge Carol Anne Coolican had prohibited reporting in the case of serial petty offender Jennifer Armstrong, whose latest charges are for allegedly smashing drinks bottles in a shop not long after she was given a suspended sentence for her 648th conviction.

The reporting restriction had been imposed at the request of Armstrong's lawyers, who claimed she had been the victim of a serious attack and that further media coverage of charges against her put her "in danger".

The ban had been in place for a week before it was lifted at Dublin District Court.

Armstrong (44), of no fixed address, has one of the longest criminal records ever seen in this country.

Articles in the Herald and Irish Independent last month reported how she was given a suspended sentence by Judge Coolican after racking up conviction number 648 for stealing wine.

Following the publication, Armstrong was arrested again and taken back before the court, this time charged with public drunkenness, threatening, abusive and insulting behaviour and damaging drinks bottles in a shop.

It was alleged she threw bottles of wine when a shopkeeper refused to serve her for being drunk in his store.

Fear

Her solicitor at that hearing, Eoin Lysaght, sought reporting restrictions, claiming Armstrong's address had been published along with her photo.

On Wednesday, Kieran Kelly, solicitor for Independent News and Media, applied to have the gagging order lifted.

Roy O'Neill, solicitor for Armstrong, argued that the order had been "totally necessary and appropriate".

After the articles were published, he said, Armstrong had become "extremely upset" and was "living in fear".

Mr O'Neill said some time ago she was subjected to an "extremely violent attack".

She believed that given the information published, "that individual is fully aware of where she is and who she is".

Mr Kelly said there was no suggestion that Armstrong would not receive a fair trial.

The articles were "entirely factual" and contained no address for the accused, as had been claimed by the defence, he said.

"The public are entitled to know and the media are entitled to print cases that come before the court," Mr Kelly said.

"Some of them are tough cases and some of them are hard cases, undoubtedly."

Judge Coolican discharged her order and remanded the acc- used in custody for two weeks.

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