Judge criticises ‘absurd selfishness’ of woman with eight convictions for not wearing mask

Margaret Buttimer (66) expected to spend Christmas period in custody after sentencing in Cork

Margaret Buttimer pictured after a court appearance in July. File photograph: Michael MacSweeney

Margaret Buttimer pictured after a court appearance in July. File photograph: Michael MacSweeney

 

A 66-year-old grandmother who has multiple convictions for failing to wear a mask in shops during the pandemic is expected to remain in jail over Christmas after she received a six-month sentence for her offending from a Judge who criticised her for her “wilful disregards for others”.

Margaret Buttimer, of The Cottage, St Fintan’s Road, Bandon, Co Cork appeared before Bandon District Court on Thursday having entered a not guilty plea after she failed to put on a mask when she entered Jakes Restaurant in the town on the morning of November 17th last.

Judge James McNulty heard that Ms Buttimer refused to leave the restaurant. A senior member of staff onsite had asked her to leave 15 times. However, instead she stood waiting at the counter for gardaí to arrive. Gardaí and staff asked her put on a mask or leave the premises. She declined to do both.

Judge James McNulty has heard several of the cases against Ms Buttimer who was without convictions until the pandemic hit and she refused to wear masks whilst out shopping. Both he and his colleague Judge Colm Roberts have expressed their inability to understand the offending behaviour of Ms Buttimer who has been described as an otherwise “pleasant” woman who had lived an “unblemished” life.

Judge McNulty has attempted to discuss the rationale for Ms Buttimer’s decision not to wear masks with her on a number of occasions. She has previously told the court that she is unsure of the efficacy of masks and uncertain if Covid actually exists. Ms Buttimer has been before the courts over eight times since last May. At one point she told a store manager that she was “only answerable to God”.

On Thursday, Judge McNulty said it was a “sad and perplexing case” and that he was frustrated by Ms Buttimer’s “absurd selfishness”.

Judge McNulty stated that whilst the defendant was entitled not to wear a mask she did not have the right to mix with others without a face covering at a time when a virus is in the community. The court previously heard that Ms Buttimer has refused to have a Covid vaccination and that she visits her elderly mother without putting on a mask.

Head chef at Jakes restaurant, David Long, was on duty on the morning of the offence. Ms Buttimer entered the premises. She did not have a Covid cert and refused to wear a mask.

Mr Long told the judge he asked Ms Buttimer to put on a mask about 15 times before he decided to call his manager, who told him to phone gardaí.

Ms Buttimer’s solicitor, Plunkett Taaffe, handed in a report from a geriatric consultant psychiatrist which detailed an MRI scan carried out on Ms Buttimer which found no anomalies.

He said the loved ones of his client had noted a change in her in that she was forgetting things. They believe that she is developing some major problems with her memory. A psychiatrist and a psychologist have also assessed Ms Buttimer but have yet to establish any definitive diagnosis.

Meanwhile, at a previous hearing, Ms Buttimer was found guilty of a similar offence at a shop in Clonakilty on October 21st last. Sentencing in that case had been adjourned until today, Thursday.

Judge McNulty expressed the view that it would be wrong to sentence Ms Buttimer to community service when she was involved in “persistent community disservice”.

He sentenced her to six months in prison in relation to the earlier offence, and imposed another six month sentence, this time suspended, for the offence in Bandon, on conditions including that she does not enter any retail or places of public resort without a mask. A sum of €500 previously posted for bail was forfeited.

Recognisance for appeal was set on her own bond of €1,000, no cash required, as well as an independent surety of €3,000, one-third in cash. Ms Buttimer left in a prison van and is expected to spend the Christmas period in custody. She now has eight convictions which relate to not wearing a mask in shops or restaurants during the pandemic.