Mother caught teaching kids how to shoplift faces jail term

Penneys in Galway Shopping Centre.

A mother of seven who was captured on CCTV teaching two of her children how to shoplift, has been referred by a judge to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, for assessment before facing a possible prison sentence in December.

Bridget Mongan (44), 5 Cois na Coille, Ballybane, pleaded guilty before Galway District Court to a series of shoplifting charges at Penney’s, Kilkenny shop and Renmore Pharmacy.

Sgt Paul Duane said Gardai were called to Penney’s at Headford Road Shopping Centre shortly after 12 noon on October 1 last year after Mongan was captured on CCTV removing a tag from a jacket before placing it into a bag.

Mongan, he said, had two of her children, aged 11 and 12 with her and she could be seen on CCTV directing the children to place other items into the bag.  Clothing to the value of €67.50 was taken before Mongan and the children left the store.

Judge Mary Fahy said the fact that Mongan had two of her young children with her while committing this offence made the situation very serious for both the accused and her children.

Sgt Duane said Garda John O’Brien got a call to go to the Kilkenny shop at High Street, Galway at 6.10pm.

Mongan, he said, had gone into the shop carrying a large red laundry bag.  She went upstairs and placed a Waterford crystal vase, valued at €595 in the bag.

The property was recovered the next day by Gardai.

“A vase like that was hardly a necessity.  She wasn’t stealing food or clothing for her children.  A Waterford crystal vase is a luxury item, not a necessity, so I have to take that into account,” Judge Fahy observed.

Sgt Duane said Gardai were called to Renmore Pharmacy on February 25 last after staff noticed items were being stolen from the shop every time Mongan came in to collect her prescription medications.

CCTV captured Mongan taking numerous items worth €284 from around the store on dates between January 23 and February 22 last, while waiting for her prescription.

Mongan also pleaded guilty to stealing €200 worth of jewellery from Claire’s Accessories in the Eyre Square Shopping Centre on October 10 last.

She was arrested on November 17 last and all of the items were recovered.

“All of the offences before the court occurred over a four-month period while my client was on ‘a cocktail’ of prescription medications and was not in her right mind.  She was on these medications to treat an underlying addiction and at the time her family threw her out at home,” defence solicitor, Michael Cunningham explained.

He said she had since returned home.

Sgt Duane informed the court Mongan had nine previous convictions, including some for thefts and the remainder for motoring offences.

In reply to Judge Fahy, Mongan said she had seven children with four of them still under 18.

Judge Fahy warned Mongan she was looking at a custodial sentence because she had two of her children with her while she was shoplifting.

The judge then said she would refer the matter first to the Child and Family Agency and get a report from it before proceeding to sentence.

“It’s outrageous that anybody would bring in young children to a shop like that.

“She is preparing them for the same type of lifestyle, so I want the matter referred to the Child and Family Agency,” Judge Fahy said.

She also directed the preparation of a pre-sanction probation report on Mongan and warned that if she was deemed to be an unsuitable candidate for community service she would serve a custodial sentence.

Mr Cunningham said his client had addiction issues and was waiting for a bed in an addiction treatment centre.

Judge Fahy said if she was to deal with everybody who appeared before the court on the basis that they were waiting for a bed, there wouldn’t be anybody to deal with.

“In my view she only started looking for a (treatment) bed when she knew the game was up and she decided to try this now,” Judge Fahy said.

The judge said Mongan was “really tearing it” by walking into a shop to deliberately take luxury goods.

“If you cannot afford to pay for luxury goods then you shouldn’t be stealing them,” she said to Mongan.

She remanded Mongan on continuing bail to December for a pre-sanction probation report for a possible community service order and for a report from the Child and Family Agency.

Judge Fahy didn’t hold out much hope for Mongan escaping a custodial sentence.

“It doesn’t sound like she will be a suitable candidate for community service if he doesn’t deal with her addictions,” Judge Fahy said.

She granted Mongan bail on condition she stay away from all of the premises mentioned in the charges and be of good behaviour and not reoffend in the intervening period.