herald

Sunday 8 December 2019

Victim of mugging avoids jail for theft of woman's phone

Thief Samantha Fitzgerald
Thief Samantha Fitzgerald

A mother-of-two who snatched another woman's mobile phone hours after her own was taken in a mugging has been spared jail.

Samantha Fitzgerald (28) felt gardai were not taking her own theft complaint seriously when she grabbed an innocent woman's phone from her hand on a city centre street in a "rash, spur-of-the-moment" act.

Fitzgerald, of Hazel Grove, Portrane Road, Donabate, pleaded guilty to stealing the phone on O'Connell Bridge on July 8.

Depression

Judge Bryan Smyth gave her a six-month suspended sentence.

The case had returned to Dublin District Court for victim impact evidence and sentencing.

A Garda sergeant said the victim did not want to make a statement and was happy for the case to proceed.

Fitzgerald was apologetic in the immediate aftermath of the offence, her lawyer said. She appreciated the seriousness of it and "knows what she did was wrong and that she should not have done it", he said.

The offence, which was out of character, happened at a "particularly low point" in Fitzgerald's life, and she found herself in difficult personal circumstances.

She was in the throes of depression and drug abuse following bereavements, he said.

The father of her children died two years ago. They had been engaged to be married and Fitzgerald's life went "rapidly downhill" after that. She was now detoxing and was on methadone.

"My view is that phone snatches deserve custodial sentences," the judge said, but he suspended the six months for two years given Fitzgerald's "particular circumstances".

Pursuit

"Thank you, judge," Fitzgerald said before signing a bond to keep the peace during the two-year suspension period.

Previously, the court heard gardai saw Fitzgerald snatch a mobile phone from the victim's hand. They gave chase, catching her after a short pursuit.

The phone was recovered undamaged and Fitzgerald was apologetic on arrest, a Garda sergeant said. The accused had two prior convictions.

While there was "no excuse," Fitzgerald herself had been mugged of her own phone earlier that day, her lawyer had said.

She made a complaint to the gardai but she felt it was not being taken seriously.

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