Woman seeks €75,000 damages over shoplifting allegation

Suzanne Thorpe denies calling Harvey Norman manager ‘a four-eyed c**t’

Suzanne Thorpe: seeking €75,000 in damages for an alleged accusation of shoplifting at a Harvey Norman outlet. Photograph: Collins Courts

Suzanne Thorpe: seeking €75,000 in damages for an alleged accusation of shoplifting at a Harvey Norman outlet. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

The Harvey Norman retail chain is facing a €75,000 defamation claim from a woman who alleges she was accused of stealing and assaulted during a power outage at its Blanchardstown outlet.

The manager of the branch, Neill Callan, denied assaulting Suzanne Thorpe (24) by putting his hand on her shoulder after the lights went out and telling her he wanted to search her shopping trolley.

Ms Thorpe, of Corduff Park, Blanchardstown, told her barrister, Colm Hennessy, she had been examining iPhones at the computer counter when the store went dark during a pre-Christmas shopping trip in 2013.

She claimed she had been restrained by Mr Callan as staff ushered customers from the store in torchlight. She alleges he said: “Sorry, can you step back? I want to search your trolley.”

Cross-examined by Fiona Crawford, counsel for Harvey Norman, Ms Thorpe denied calling Mr Callan “a four-eyed c**t” and shouting “Are you f**king accusing me of stealing?” when they were outside the store.

Mr Callan told Judge James O’Donohoe that although the phones and laptops were attached to security wires they could be removed without setting off an alarm because of the 15-minute power cut. The CCTV system was also down.

Expletives

He told Mr Hennessy that he could not remember all the expletives Ms Thorpe shouted at him outside the shop but he could definitely recall her calling him “a four-eyed c**t”.

Ms Thorpe said she had visited the shop with a friend and her aunt, who had gone to the photo-developing counter while she browsed. She had been looking at iPhones when the lights went out.

“Some of the staff produced torches, and I was feeling very panicky and headed to get out the door, into the daylight,” she said. “A man put his hand on my shoulder and said he wanted to see what was in the trolley, asking me to step back.”

She said she kept going and Mr Callan followed her outside, all the while looking into her trolley. Outside he put his arm into the trolley to inspect her purchases, but she stopped him and offered to await the arrival of the Garda, which was never called.

Ms Crawford said Mr Callan would tell the court Ms Thorpe had been reportedly seen twiddling with the wire at the back of a laptop. Two customers and another member of staff had spoken to him about her movements.

Ms Thorpe told Ms Crawford she was panicking and that when somebody touched her in the dark her panic got worse.

Mr Callan said there had been a power outage on December 14th, 2013, when the shop was busy. He had seen her at the laptop, which she could have removed from the store because the alarm would not have gone off when the security wire was pulled off.

“I never went near her in the store. When she walked out I said, ‘Excuse me,’ and she turned around and said, ‘Are you f**king accusing me of stealing?’ ” he said, adding that he was not.

The court reserved judgment.