€20,000 award for woman wrongly accused of shoplifting

Judge told Maria Kearns so distressed by accusation she went to solicitor within a week

Maria Kearns, of Deanstown Green, Finglas West, Dublin, was awarded €20,000 damages for defamation against Mothercare Ireland and UK, trading as Early Learning Centre, on Dublin’s Henry Street, and a security firm.  Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Maria Kearns, of Deanstown Green, Finglas West, Dublin, was awarded €20,000 damages for defamation against Mothercare Ireland and UK, trading as Early Learning Centre, on Dublin’s Henry Street, and a security firm. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Wed, Jun 25, 2014, 09:43

A 29-year-old mother of three told a judge yesterday she and her six-year-old child had been “shadowed” step-for-step around a store* by a security guard who then accused her of shoplifting.

Maria Kearns, of Deanstown Green, Finglas West, Dublin, was awarded €20,000 damages for defamation against Mothercare UK*, trading as Early Learning Centre, on Dublin’s Henry Street, and a security firm.

Barrister Michael Vallely, for Ms Kearns, told the court she had since been treated for depression and had just recently been put on a reduced dose of antidepressants.

Judge Alan Mahon heard Ms Kearns had been so distressed by the January 4th, 2012, accusation she had gone to her solicitor within a week.

She told Mr Vallely she had gone to the store with her two sisters to buy her six-year-old a birthday present. A security guard had walked behind them throughout the shop.

After paying for two items he had said: “She took that. She stole that.”

Ms Kearns had become very angry and had returned to the store with her receipts.

Judge Mahon said there had been a serious conflict of evidence between Ms Kearns and the security guard, who had conceded the manager had said there had been a misunderstanding.

“Those words and the fact that the manager has not been called as a witness is key to deciding the case,” he said.

*This story was edited on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014 at 12.10pm