A 29-year-old mother of three told a judge today that she and her six-year-old child had been “shadowed” step for step around a Mothercare-owned store by a security guard who had then accused her of shoplifting.
Maria Kearns, a hairdresser, of Deanstown Green, Finglas West, Dublin, was awarded €20,000 damages for defamation against Mothercare Ireland and UK, trading as Early Learning Centre in Dublin's Henry Street and a security firm.
Barrister Michael Vallely, counsel for Ms Kearns, told the Circuit Civil Court she had since been treated for depression and had only recently been put on a reduced dose of antidepressants.
Judge Alan Mahon heard that Ms Kearns had been so distressed by the January 4th, 2012 accusation that she had gone to her solicitor Kieran O'Connor within a week of the incident.
She told Mr Vallely she had gone into The Early Learning Centre with her two sisters, Nichola and Sandra, to buy her six-year-old a birthday present. A security guard had walked only two steps behind them throughout the shop.
After paying for two items he had said: “She took that. She stole that.” She had become very angry and had returned to the store with her receipts.
“Yes I did raise my voice and called for the manager before I called the guards. The manager told me there had been a misunderstanding,” she told Mr Vallely.
She said the security guard had spat in her direction but the spit had not hit her.
“I took it very bad for a couple of weeks and had to go to my doctor who prescribed antidepressants and sleeping tablets. It changed my personality,” Ms Kearns said.
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,” Judge Mahon said. “It was a serious defamation in a busy Henry Street during the 2012 January sales.”
The €20,000 was awarded against the Irish and UK Mothercare companies and Oltec Group, Wigan, England, trading as AFC Security.