Worker wins order overturning conviction


A woman who claimed the fact she was working led to her being convicted of deception when two unemployed co-accused got the benefit of the Probation Act has won a High Court order overturning her conviction and €500 fine.

Monalisa Brehuta and two co-accused appeared before District Court Judge John Coughlan in October 2011 charged with deception arising from changing the €34.99 price tag on a pair of sunglasses on sale at TK Maxx for a €16.99 price tag.

All three were legally represented, none had any previous convictions and all pleaded guilty. The judge was told Ms Brehuta was working and the two co-accused were unemployed, a solicitor for Ms Brehuta said in an affidavit.

Judge Coughlan convicted Ms Brehuta and fined her €500 and gave the two co-accused the benefit of the Probation Act, with the effect that no convictions are recorded against them.

In his reserved judgment, Mr Justice Michael Peart said the three were similarly situated, except Ms Brehuta was employed and therefore able to pay a fine. People similarly situated must be similarly treated, he said. When two accomplices leave court without a conviction because they are unemployed and Ms Brehuta has a conviction because she is employed, that must leave her, and any reasonable observer, with a feeling an unfairness has occurred.