Tuesday 20 March 2018

Woman wins High Court challenge after claiming having a job meant she was treated unfairly when fined

A WOMAN who claimed having a job meant she was treated unfairly when fined €500 for deception has won a High Court challenge over the decision.

Monalisa Brehuta said the fact she was working led to her being convicted when two unemployed co-accused got the benefit of the Probation Act leaving them without criminal records.

She took a legal challenge to the decision and a High Court judge overturned her conviction and €500 fine.

Ms Brehuta and two co-accused all appeared before District Court Judge John Coughlan in October 2011 charged with deception arising by changing the €34.99 price tag on a pair of sunglasses on sale at TK Maxx for a €16.99 price tag.

All three were legally represented, none had any previous convictions and all pleaded guilty.

The judge was told Ms Brehuta was working and the two co-accused were unemployed, a solicitor for Ms Brehuta said in an affidavit.

Judge Coughlan convicted Ms Brehuta and fined her €500 and gave the two co-accused the Probation Act.

In judicial review proceedings, Ms Brehuta argued, as an employed person, she was treated unequally and unfairly compared with her unemployed companions.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Michael Peart said the three accused were similarly situated, except that Ms Brehuta was employed and therefore able to pay a fine.

Persons similarly situated must be similarly treated, he said. When two accomplices leave court without a conviction solely because they are unemployed and Ms Brehuta has a conviction because she is employed, that must leave her, and any reasonable observer, with a feeling an unfairness has occurred.

"Public confidence in the administration of justice is central to the rule of law."

It was important the public know persons who are similarly situated will not receive different treatment "because of some happenstance irrelevant to the question of guilt or innocence", he said.

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