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Friday 29 August 2014

Judge warns shopkeepers failure to adapt fool-proof methods of checking for fake banknotes could cost them dearly

Woman awarded €10,000 damages as Judge rules she had been unlawfully detained for 40 minutes, her reputation had been diminished and she had been humiliated

Ray Managh

Published 10/07/2014 | 12:48

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Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, when awarding a woman damages for defamation against a Marks and Spencer outlet, said the store could easily have avoided wrongly implying that the customer was trying to pass a fake €50 note.

A judge warned the country’s shopkeepers today that failure to adopt available cheap and fool-proof methods of checking for fake banknotes could cost them dearly.

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Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, when awarding a woman damages for defamation against a Marks and Spencer outlet, said the store could easily have avoided wrongly implying that the customer was trying to pass a fake €50 note.

“In this day and age, counter checks for fake currency with security pens are now part and parcel of the process of commerce even though it may slightly startle customers that their currency is being checked,” Judge Groarke told the Circuit Civil Court.

He said Ms Dana Voicu of Rosse Court Heights, Balgaddy Road, Lucan, Co Dublin, had been unlawfully detained for up to 40 minutes in Marks and Spencer’s Liffey Valley, Lucan, store while being subjected to public humiliation.

“She has told this court she felt Marks and Spencer was mopping the floor with her while being challenged about the bank note which turned out to be valid legal tender,” Judge Groarke said. “I am satisfied she is an extremely honest and straightforward individual who has not made a big deal about the matter.”

Barrister Benedict O’Floinn, counsel for Ms Voicu, told the court a store manager had told her: “This note is fake and I cannot give it back to you. I should take all your money. If this one is fake they are all fake and I should call the gardai.”

Mr O’Floinn said Marks and Spencer was not disputing that the words had been spoken but had demanded proof that she had been injured in her character, credit and reputation.

Ms Voicu said she had presented the €50 note to pay for an item costing €17.  The sales girl had put it by the till and called a manager who had told her it was a fake.  Forty minutes later a security man had told her it was genuine.

“I was so hurt and humiliated.  They were mopping the floor with me in front of customers,” Ms Voicu said.

Ms Voicu (45) said some people in the queue knew her as she worked on the cashdesk in a nearby store. Later some customers where she worked avoided her. She had not rushed to court and it was 11 months before she had asked her solicitor Thomas O’Reilly to send a letter of complaint.

Awarding her €10,000 damages, Judge Groarke said she had been unlawfully detained for 40 minutes, her reputation had been diminished and she had been humiliated.

Apart from the security man who had confirmed the note was legal tender Ms Voicu had never received an apology from Marks and Spencer staff.

He said that had proper procedures been put in place by Marks and Spencer the costly exercise for them could so easily have been avoided.  There had been a complete and utter absence of procedures in the store for checking out suspected forged notes.

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