Shop pays out €70,000 after false theft claim against girls
A LEADING accessories store has had to pay €70,000 in damages and legal costs for slander and false imprisonment after six schoolgirls were mistakenly accused of stealing earrings.
Claire's Accessories made a settlement of more than €7,500 to Jacqueline O'Reilly (17), which was approved by the Circuit Civil Court yesterday.
Barrister David Conlan Smyth said it was the sixth case he had settled in relation to a single incident in the company's store at the Ilac Centre in Dublin in October 2008.
He said all of the cases against Claire's Accessories UK, whose registered office is in The Outlet Centre, Fair Hill, Killarney, Co Kerry, had been settled for €7,500 each with costs.
Legal costs for such cases in the Circuit Civil Court average between €4,000 and €5,000 each.
Mr Conlan Smyth said that Jacqueline, a mother of one, had been browsing in the store, which specialises in jewellery and accessories, with five of her friends on the day in question.
All of them had then been accused of having stolen two pairs of earrings.
He said it appeared that a member of staff had approached the group and said: "Girls, where are the earrings? They were there before you came in and they could not have vanished."
Mr Conlan Smyth, who has appeared with Blake Horrigan Solicitors for all of the girls, said they had denied having any knowledge of the earrings.
But they had been asked to publicly empty their pockets and shake out their sleeves.
Mr Conlan Smyth said the staff member, having found nothing, had stated: "One of you has them because they were there before you came in so you can put two and two together."
He said Jacqueline, of St Theresa's Gardens, Donore Avenue, Dublin, and her friends had been falsely imprisoned for the time they had been forced to remain in the shop and slandered by the publicly stated remarks.
Before leaving, the then 12 and 13-year-olds had been told they would be barred from the shop if they returned in a group.
"Upset and humiliated, slandered and imprisoned, the infant plaintiff was escorted by a male member of security out of the shop to the entrance of the Ilac Centre," Mr Conlan Smyth said.
He said the court, at earlier hearings, had approved €7,500 settlements in all of the cases.
Court President Matthew Deery, when told by Mr Conlan Smyth that Jacqueline now had a small child herself and would be 18 in January, directed that the €7,500 be paid directly to her.