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Penneys x25k bill after girl accused of x5 shoes theft

An accusation that a schoolgirl had stolen a pair of shoes worth €4.99 has cost Penneys' Dublin store and their security company more than €25,000.

Barrister John Nolan told the Circuit Civil Court that 14-year-old Sarah Coughlan had bought the shoes in Penneys in Henry Street, Dublin, in May last year.

While at the till she noticed, after having paid for them, that they were shop soiled and had been told by the sales girl she could take another pair instead.

"She changed the shoes and when she was leaving she was accosted by a store detective and accused of not having paid," Mr Nolan said. "Despite producing her receipt for the shoes the store detective insisted on searching her bag and publicly accusing her of shoplifting."

Mr Nolan said Sarah, of Champions Avenue, Dublin, had been taken by the arm and, "to say the least," marched robustly to a basement room where she had been interrogated.



RIGHTS

He said Sarah's mobile phone had been taken from her and she had been refused several requests to phone her mother. When no one was looking, she hit a quick-dial button to contact her mother.

Mr Nolan said the gardai had been called and Sarah's mother, Marguerite, arrived to the shop. Eventually she was allowed to go home.

"The accusation, arrest and detention of the girl was entirely without foundation," he said. "Even in garda custody a suspect, particularly if a minor, is entitled to basic rights."

Mr Nolan said Sarah had not suffered any physical injury but had been mentally distressed. She had been offered a settlement of €15,000 and he recommended its acceptance to the court. He said the defendants had maintained a denial of false arrest and defamation.

Circuit Court President, Mr Justice Matthew Deery, said Sarah had suffered a very bad experience.

The defendants were ordered to pay Sarah's legal costs of €5,000 and their own legal bills took the total cost to €25,000.

hnews@herald.ie