Monday 16 September 2019

Serial thief handed 'one last chance' as she walks free after 648th conviction

‘Tragic’ life: Jennifer Armstrong’s (44) litany of past offences was described as an Irish ‘record’
‘Tragic’ life: Jennifer Armstrong’s (44) litany of past offences was described as an Irish ‘record’
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

One of Ireland's most prolific petty criminals walked free on a suspended sentence after racking up conviction number 648.

Serial thief Jennifer Armstrong (44), who has one of the longest criminal records ever seen in this country, was arrested for shoplifting wine just two days after she was released from a 16-month prison sentence.

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Among her staggering litany of past offences, described as an Irish "record", Armstrong has been convicted for assault and stealing from and harassing the public around Dublin city centre.

Judge Carol Anne Coolican spared her jail for her latest offence, giving her a one-month suspended sentence after Armstrong begged for "one last chance".

Armstrong, a homeless alcoholic who has spent a combined 27 years of her life in jail, pleaded guilty to theft and public drunkenness.

Garda Sergeant Paul Keane said the accused went to Tesco on Rathmines Road Upper at 5.42pm on July 8.

Security had detained Armstrong after she stole an €8 bottle of wine from the off-­licence area.

She had been stopped when they saw her placing the bottle under her jumper before trying to leave.

She was "very intoxicated" at the time and was arrested. Of Armstrong's 647 previous convictions, 88 were for theft and 216 were for public intoxication.

She had fallen on hard times and had tried many times to get her life back on track.

She wanted to do so and become a "useful member of society", her barrister said.

The accused had been released from a 16-month sentence on July 6, two days before her latest arrest, and was "effectively sent back where she came from". "She goes out on the street and turns down the only avenue she knows," her barrister said.

Armstrong told the judge she had no money when she left jail and "I still haven't been paid".

"Could you give her one last chance," her lawyer said. "She knows it's makeor break time."

A probation officer carried out an immediate assessment and told the court Armstrong would be suitable for day programmes. Previously the court heard Armstrong had had a "tragic" life and had been in a "vicious circle" of poverty and substance abuse.

Irish Independent

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