'Second Chance' charity shop operator escapes jail term
A mother-of-three told a judge that the purposes of her setting up a charity shop which went unregistered was to help local causes including families suddenly bereaved who needed money for funeral expenses.
Maureen Gaughan, owner of what was known as The Second Chance Boutique in American Street, Belmullet, Co Mayo, told Judge Alan Mitchell at Belmullet District Court she had not gained personally from the charity venture.
The Second Chance Boutique was closed by the Charities Regulator under a "cease and desist order" following a complaint by a member of the public.
When she appeared in court yesterday, Ms Gaughan pleaded guilty to breaching the Charities Act 2009.
Garda Daniel Malone said that when he investigated on December 3, 2015, following a complaint from a member of the public, he found two charity shop signs on the footpath pointing towards the Second Chance Boutique. The garda said Ms Gaughan admitted the shop wasn't operating as a registered charity.
A total of 76 bags of second-hand clothing and boxes of toys and books, as well as €362 cash, were seized from the premises, Gda Malone stated.
In evidence Ms Gaughan told her solicitor Samantha Geraghty she had been involved for years with St Vincent de Paul. When the charity's shop in Belmullet closed she tried to fill the void.
"I collected money for anyone looking for help, including the families of road traffic victims", Ms Gaughan stated.
The State accepted the defendant had previously been involved in charity work.
Judge Mitchell said it had not been proven the defendant gained personally from the venture, but added he could not disregard the fact there had been a breach of the Charities Act and he had to send out a message in that regard.
Remanding the case to November, the judge said he would dismiss under the Probation Act if €500 was paid to the RNLI.
Judge Mitchell ordered forfeiture of the cash (€362) and property (clothing and toys) that had been seized.