Shopper loses slander claim against Penneys


A WOMAN who claimed she had been wrongly accused of taking a set of false nails from a Dublin department store has lost her €38,000 damages claim in which she alleged she had been slandered and falsely imprisoned.

Judge Jacqueline Linnane heard evidence in the Circuit Civil Court that 90 per cent of theft from Penneys Store in Mary Street, Dublin, was from the cosmetics department because items were easily concealed.

Paul O’Neill, counsel for Penneys, told the court that a 15-minute video of Christine Doyle’s movements through the store during Christmas rush shopping in December 2004 showed her picking up a set of false nails, placing them on the hood of her child’s buggy and covering them with a jacket she had brought back to the store to exchange. Ms Doyle, of Kerlouge Road, Ringsend, Dublin, said when she placed the nails on the buggy she intended buying them, but later changed her mind while browsing in the store and had placed the nails on a Christmas decoration close to an escalator in Penneys.

She told Mr O’Neill she had overlooked paying for them when she had exchanged the jacket for towels, despite having to hand over a cash difference in the swap deal. She said she often placed intended purchases on top of her child’s buggy while shopping. The nails had been covered by the jacket and the towels she had picked up to exchange.

Security supervisor Mark Cassin said he had been monitoring security cameras in the control room and had seen Ms Doyle place the nails on the buggy and cover them. From that time onwards, he followed her movements on CCTV while directing store detective Danielle Graham to shadow her. He said when a buggy hood was partly folded it created a crease in which items could be hidden.

Ms Graham said she followed Ms Doyle to the customer service counter, where she saw the nails on the buggy hood as she exchanged the jacket for towels. She did not pay for them and at no time did she see her place them on a Christmas decoration or a shelf. She had followed her outside, where a member of the security staff had asked her to come back into the shop.

Dismissing Ms Doyle’s claim and awarding costs against her, Judge Linnane said she had refused to return to the shop until a garda was present.

Garda Kenneth Butler, who had been in the shop on another matter, had spoken to her and had inspected the buggy hood but had not found any nails. He had told Ms Doyle she was free to go.

Judge Linnane told Mr O’Neill she was satisfied Penneys security staff had behaved in a reasonable, professional and courteous manner at all times and were entitled under the law of qualified privilege to make relevant inquiries about an item they felt had not been paid for.