Wednesday 7 December 2016

Teen (17) who claimed defamation following Luas driver's pickpocket warning for passengers awarded damages

Saurya Cherfi

Published 28/06/2016 | 13:54

Rebecca Conroy alleged that the incident happened when she was on a tram with her mother and three other people Photo: PA
Rebecca Conroy alleged that the incident happened when she was on a tram with her mother and three other people Photo: PA

A 17-year-old teenager, who claimed she was defamed when she was publicly described as a pickpocket on a Luas tram, was today awarded damages in the Circuit Civil Court.

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Rebecca Conroy alleged that the incident, which is denied by Luas operator Veolia Transport Light Rail Ltd, happened when she was on a tram in Smithfield, Dublin, on 16th April 2011, with her mother, Marion Conroy, and three other people. 

Cormac Quinn, counsel for Rebecca, told the court that the group had just boarded the streetcar when the driver announced over the loudspeaker system that pickpockets had boarded the tram and passengers should take care of their belongings. 

Rebecca, of Deansrath Lawn, Clondalkin, Dublin, claimed that the announcement had been directed at her and afterwards passengers had been looking at her.  She had felt they did not want to sit beside her. 

The teenager alleged in her Civil Bill, which claimed damages of up to €38,000, that her mother made a complaint to the Luas driver who had told her that he had been instructed to make the announcement as he thought they were Romanian gypsies. 

Rebecca, though her mother Marion, sued Veolia Transport Light Rail Ltd, for defamation.  She claimed she had been shamed, humiliated, highly embarrassed and distressed and was now reluctant to use the Luas.

Veolia Transport, which had delivered a full defence to Rebecca’s €38,000 damages claim, denied the incident had occurred in the manner alleged or that the words had been directed towards her.

It claimed the driver issued an announcement after having been “expressly instructed” by An Garda Síochána to notify passengers that there may be pickpockets operating in the area. 

The company claimed the tram driver had therefore republished the public warning and had said “Please take care of your personal belongings as there may be pickpockets operating on the tram.” 

Mr Quinn, who appeared with Eugene Smartt solicitors, said the company had made a €2,500 settlement offer to Rebecca, which he recommended to the court.  Judge Groarke approved it.

It is believed that outstanding claims have also been made by all of the other members of the group accompanying Rebecca on the day.

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