Sunday 24 September 2017

Man falsely accused of stealing €2 pastry from Centra awarded €20,000

Innocent: Anthony Maher. Photo: Collins
Innocent: Anthony Maher. Photo: Collins
Jambon. Stock Picture

Ray Managh

A Dublin man, who claimed he was falsely accused of not paying for a jambon pastry, has been awarded €20,000 damages in the Circuit Civil Court for defamation.

Anthony Maher claimed that on August 7, 2014, he bought and paid for a number of items at Centra Corduff, Blackhorse Avenue, Corduff, Blanchardstown, Dublin, and had been followed outside the store by two staff members.

Maher, of McWilliam Parade, Fortunestown, Tallaght, Dublin, said that one of them, Marian Fletcher, told him that he had not paid for the jambon he had bought from the deli counter.

He told his barrister, Maeve Cox, that he tried to explain he had paid for all of the items but Ms Fletcher had asked him to go back into the store where he pointed out to her the cashier who had served him.

Maher said that as the cashier had not remembered him he had asked for the till and security cameras to be checked, arguing he was not a thief.  There had been customers inside and outside the store throughout the incident.

Ms Cox, who appeared with John O’Leary Solicitors, said Mr Maher had felt obliged to remain in the shop until the matter was resolved to their satisfaction despite having done nothing wrong.

He said he was eventually informed that it was okay and not to worry about it.  On his way out he had spoken to Ms Fletcher about the incident and about the fact that he was innocent.

Maher, who sued Damast Limited, which trades as Centra Corduff, of Invermore Grove, The Donahies, Donaghmede, Dublin, claimed Ms Fletcher had told him that there was fault on both sides as the deli assistant should have given him a receipt.

He alleged that the words spoken meant that he was guilty of criminal or dishonest conduct, was a thief, a liar and a person of disreputable and low moral character.

The store had denied his allegations in a full defence.  It denied he had been followed and alleged that Ms Fletcher had just questioned him about the deli item at the till while she was serving him.

Judge Francis Comerford said shops were entitled to enquire about their goods as long as it was done in a reasonable manner.  He says sometimes shops make mistakes and the person being questioned feels insulted.

Judge Comerford said in this case, the defendant denied the incident described by Mr Maher had happened at all and now accuses him of making a fraudulent and malicious claim.

The Judge said the store ignored six letters sent by Mr Maher’s legal team about the incident and only started to reply to them after he had issued legal proceedings. Awarding Maher €20,000 damages, he said he would have expected the store to answer the initial letters to point out that the incident never happened.

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