Tuesday 27 September 2016

‘I don’t regret taking fruit meant for disadvantaged kids’, insists ex-caretaker

David Kearns

Published 16/06/2016 | 13:28

Thomas Byrne
Thomas Byrne

A former school caretaker found guilty of stealing fruit meant for disadvantaged pupils has said he has no regrets – despite ending up before a judge over the sum of €66.

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Thomas Byrne (55) was found guilty last week at Dublin District Court on eight counts of theft from Scoil Fhursa in Kilmore after he helped himself to dozens of bags of fruit donated to the school by a local grocer.

The father-of-two, who is now doing a history and archaeology course in Trinity College, told the Herald when approached outside his home that he felt “hard done by”

because he had thought the fruit was free.

“It seems stupid that things have gone this far over some fruit. All I did was take some of them home to eat,” he said.

“My claim was I didn’t do it. I thought the fruit was free.”

Between February 24 and March 7, the former school caretaker, who has no previous criminal convictions, stole 31 bags of fruit donated to his school by Glanmore Foods.

Irregularities

The fruit was delivered to the school four days a week free of charge, and was part of efforts by Scoil Fhursa to encourage its students, especially those from socially disadvantaged areas, to experience different foods.

Speaking in court, school principal Martin Stynes told Judge Ryan that the school began to notice irregularities and inconsistencies in the supply of fruits being donated each day.

On February 24, it was expected there would be 10 bags of oranges, but only four were counted. On February 26, there were supposed to be six bags of bananas but only four were counted.

On March 3, it was expected there would be 10 bags of oranges, but there were two. The next day there were three bags of apples when there were supposed to be six.

On March 5 there were three bags of bananas when there should have been six, and on March 7 two bags of apples were expected but only one was counted.

Mr Stynes said Byrne told him that “some days we get more, some days we get less, you can’t depend on the delivery”.

CCTV was shown in court of Byrne – of Howth Road, Raheny, – carrying bags of fruit to his car on the dates listed by Mr Stynes.

Asked about the value of the stolen fruit, John Mooney, the owner of Glanmore Foods, said it was €66.

Asked if he regretted not taking the offer of a caution, Byrne said: “No. As I said, I didn’t think I had done anything wrong, so I didn’t accept their version of events.”

Judge Ann Ryan adjourned sentencing pending a report on Byrne’s suitability for a restorative justice programme.

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