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Innocent girls who helped shoplifter with bags win €21k

TWO schoolgirls who agreed to help an old lady carry her shopping bags across a busy Dublin street were unaware the woman was a serial shoplifter, a court has heard.

Barrister Conor Bowman told the Circuit Civil Court that innocent Danielle Meehan (17) and Lauren Matthews, (13), (both pictured) together with the unnamed thief, were corralled by security men on the street and herded back into a Marks & Spencer's store.

Judge Leonie Reynolds said Danielle and Lauren, acting as Good Samaritans, had been defamed and falsely imprisoned by security staff who had unlawfully detained them in a security room for almost 20 minutes.


She awarded Danielle, now aged 21, and Lauren, who will be 17 on November 10 next, €8,000 each damages for defamation of character and another €2,500 each for false imprisonment, along with their legal costs.

Mr Bowman told the court the girls were close friends and neighbours in Gardini Lane, Raheny, Dublin, and on November 14, 2008, had visited Marks & Spencer at the Jervis Shopping Centre in Dublin.

After visiting the lingerie department they had left and outside the Mary Street exit an elderly woman had asked them to help her across the street with her shopping bags.

The girls took some of her bags. As they were standing with the woman the trio had been surrounded by three members of Securitas Security Services who had followed the old woman out of the store after having watched her hide a number of items in her bags and pay for only a few others.

Judge Reynolds heard Danielle and Lauren tell how one of the security men told them: "You are going to have to come back into the shop. You are shoplifting and we are going to have to call the gardai."

They had been detained despite having told security staff they did not know the old woman. The woman had also told staff she did not know who the girls were.

The girls had later been collected by their parents.

Judge Reynolds directed that the shoplifter concerned in the incident, who had since been convicted, should not be identified. Security staff had watched her shoplifting and CCTV revealed there had been no contact between the girls and the woman in the store.

She was satisfied they had been told they were being detained for shoplifting until gardai arrived. The judge said the elderly woman concerned was a known shoplifter to security staff and immediate reference to the CCTV should have resolved the matter.

The firms may appeal.