A Dublin mother, who claimed she was accused at a post office of trying to pass counterfeit notes, has lost a €38,000 damages claim for defamation in the Circuit Civil Court.
Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke said that although he accepted that postmistress Bridget Tierney had been entitled to call the Gardaí, nothing would have happened if her office had been kept in a proper manner.
The judge said the post office note checker had been broken for several days as its bulb was gone, but it would not have been unreasonable for Ms Tierney to ask Winnie McDonagh to come back during lunch time and change the bulb in the meantime.
He said Ms Tierney had been concerned when Ms McDonagh arrived at Cappagh Post Office, Dunnes Stores Shopping Centre, Cappagh, Finglas, Dublin, on the morning of May 2, 2012, with a large sum of cash in bundles without knowing how much was there.
Judge Groarke told barrister Philip Fennell that his client, Ms Tierney, had also felt that something was strange with the notes as she manipulated them while counting the €3,850 sum.
The judge said Ms McDonagh, of Berryfield Crescent, Dublin, had been a customer at the post office for almost 20 years and staff knew she was not numerate.
Ms Tierney, after counting the notes several times, had called the Gardaí, who had needed to take the money away to have it checked at the Garda Headquarters in Dublin. An Garda Síochána had later confirmed that the money was fine.
McDonagh had told the court that her son, Thomas, had asked her to put a sum of money, which he had withdrawn from his bank account, on her postal account.
She claimed Tierney had asked her where did the money come from, and had told her that €2,500 out of the €3,850 was counterfeit. She had felt embarrassed as there were customers on the premises.
Tierney had denied liability. She told Mr Fennell that she felt she had to deal with the matter right away because procedures would not have allowed her to hand back the money, if counterfeit, to Ms McDonagh.
She said she was a contractor for An Post and if she had taken fake notes, she would have been liable for the money. She had not got a chance to replace the bulb on the machine.
Judge Groarke said it was unclear, due to conflicting evidence, as to what had actually happened, but he was satisfied that Ms McDonagh had not been detained unlawfully on the premises.
He said that although the matter could have been dealt in another way by Ms Tierney, she had been entitled to call the Gardaí, as evidence showed that sometimes notes can give the impression of being counterfeit. He dismissed Ms McDonagh’s claim and made no order regarding the legal costs.