THREE schoolgirls who went on a shopping trip to mark one of their birthdays were wrongly accused of shoplifting and held against their will for almost half an hour.
Barrister Colette Egan told the Circuit Civil Court that four years after their nightmare experience the security firm involved, Chubb Ireland Ltd, agreed to pay each of them €15,000 compensation.
The girls yesterday accepted the €45,000 damages, which will be lodged in court until they are 18.
They are school pals Roisin Ward, of Croboy, Hill of Down, Enfield, Co Meath; Aoife Fox, of The Burrows, Killaskillen, Kinnegad, Co Meath, and Mairead O'Reilly, Coralstown, Kinnegad, Co Westmeath. They are all 17.
Ms Egan told Judge Jacqueline Linnane that the three had gone shopping in the Liffey Valley Centre, Lucan, Co Dublin, on September 8, 2007, and had visited the cosmetics department in the Boots pharmacy store.
The court heard Chubb Ireland, of Stillorgan Industrial Park, Blackrock, Co Dublin, had indemnified Boots against whom all court action was struck out.
Ms Egan said that after having completed their shopping they had left the store only to be accosted in the mall by a security man. He ordered them back to Boots, and herded them in public view into the store.
Ms Egan said the girls had been taken to a small room in Boots where they had been held for 25 minutes and had their bags searched. They had been released only after producing receipts for all of their purchases in Boots and other stores in the centre.
She told the court that while detained in the room Aoife's mother rang her daughter's mobile, only to be told she could not join the girls.
Aoife had been told to hang up and hand over her phone. Later, Mrs Fox met the girls in the centre and had taken them back into the store to query what had happened. Some of them had to go to the bathroom because they felt ill.
Ms Egan said the girls had been crying and held each other's hands in the room. They had not been believed by the security staff and had been asked on numerous occasions if they wanted to change their story.
Mrs Fox had insisted on calling the gardai who had calmed the girls after finding out a mistake had been made. No one had contacted the families and their solicitor Niall Cunningham had initiated court proceedings.
Judge Linnane approved of the €45,000 block settlement offer with costs by Chubb Ireland Ltd. She said Roisin, Mairead and Aoife clearly had suffered a very disturbing experience and she hoped they could now put it all behind them.
The judge said Chubb Ireland had made a realistic and fair offer and had obviated the necessity and stress of the girls having to relive their experiences in the witness box.