Saturday 21 October 2017

Ex-bridal store owner avoids jail for stealing dress payments

Furious brides-to-be stormed shop and ran off with goods when deposits went missing

Former boutique owner Shirley Flanagan. Photo: Press 22
Former boutique owner Shirley Flanagan. Photo: Press 22

David Raleigh

A former bridal store owner has been given a 12-month suspended jail sentence after admitting stealing dress payments from bride-to-be customers.

At her sentencing hearing at Limerick Circuit Court, gardaí accepted that Shirley Flanagan, proprietor of Robelle Bridal, Annacotty, "did not intend to con" the women.

Flanagan's barrister said she found herself in financial difficulties and in the throes of a deep depression following the death of her young son in April 2011.

Flanagan (36) with an address at Rathurd, Donoghmore, pleaded guilty to four counts of theft totalling €3,600, on dates between January and May 2015.

Garda Sean O'Regan, told the court that gardaí received a formal complaint from one of Flanagan's customers on May 7, 2015.

A number of women had paid Flanagan cash for designer dresses - in some cases the women were given other dresses, while in other cases they did not receive any dress.

Robelle Bridal store in Limerick. Photo: Press 22
Robelle Bridal store in Limerick. Photo: Press 22

The mother of one customer paid Flanagan €1,800 for a David Fielden dress, but never received it. In other cases, women gave Flanagan deposits for dresses designed by Kenneth Winston and Justin Alexander, however they did not receive the dresses.

Gardaí were alerted to the thefts after the matter was highlighted on social media sites.

They found no orders had been placed with suppliers, despite Flanagan receiving money for the dresses.

The shop hit headlines in 2015 when angry brides-to-be stormed the premises after failing to receive the dresses they had ordered for their weddings.

A group of women, who had handed over substantial cash deposits for wedding dresses, rushed into the bridal shop and helped themselves to dresses on display in the shop.

The women said they complained to gardaí about their problems in trying to secure the dresses they had ordered several months ago.

The court heard Flanagan had been severely traumatised by the tragic death of her young son. Garda O'Regan said that the defendant had not "set out to con people" and was trying "to make a go" of the boutique business.

The defence said she had set up the business as a "distraction" from her grief. Flanagan co-operated with gardaí and none of the weddings was cancelled as a result of her actions.

Deposits

Judge O'Donnell imposed a 12-month sentence but suspended it for 12 months and said he was satisfied the offences were due to mismanagement rather than for personal gain.

All the brides previously said they were urged to pay their deposits in cash, rather than by credit card, to get a discount of several hundred euro.

In May 2015 it was reported that the angry and upset brides-to-be stormed the bridal store in Limerick after failing to receive the dresses they had ordered for their weddings.

One bride had arranged to meet with a representative of Flanagan and a number of other brides were lying in wait. They then stormed the store and claimed any dress that they could lay their hands on. One bride managed to flee with three dresses, as she made her way to Henry Street station to file a complaint. But none of the dresses was the one she had ordered.

Irish Independent

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