Caretaker who stole pupils' fruit avoids jail
A former school caretaker who stole fruit meant for disadvantaged pupils has avoided jail.
Thomas Byrne (56) had contested eight counts of theft of bags of bananas, apples and oranges worth about €66 from Scoil Fhursa in Kilmore, Dublin 5, between February 24 and March 7, 2014 when he was employed as a caretaker.
However, he was found guilty at Dublin District Court by Judge Ann Ryan who yesterday fined him €300.
Father-of-two Byrne is now doing a history and archaeology course in Trinity College.
During an earlier hearing, school principal Martin Stynes told Judge Ryan that the HSE and Dublin City Council ran a healthy-eating programme for schools.
He said Scoil Fhursa was in an area designated as socially disadvantaged and the aim of the scheme was for the pupils to try different foods.
Mr Stynes said there were irregularities and the school noticed inconsistencies in the supply of fruits and the availability of it to 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.
On February 24 it was expected there would be 10 bags of oranges but only four were counted.
On February 26 there were supposed to be six bags of bananas but four were counted; on the following day, six bags of apples were expected but there were none.
On March 5 there were three bags of bananas when there should have been six and on March 7 two bags of apples were expected but only one was counted.
Mr Stynes said the defendant told him that "some days we get more, some days we get less".
"Given that this person was trusted in his area of work I took him at his word," he added.
John Mooney, the owner of Glanmore Foods, said the free fruit was delivered to schools four days a week.
Byrne's counsel had told the court his client - of Howth Road, Raheny - thought some of the fruit left in a basket outside his office was freely available and he did not see a problem taking it.