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Mother turned shoplifter after meningitis cost job

A MENINGITIS victim who lost her hairdressing job because of the effects of the virus turned to heroin and shoplifting, a court heard.

Tara Dalton (32) began taking the drug after losing much of the power in her right arm following a bout of meningitis forced her to leave her job.

The mother-of-three voluntarily stayed in jail on remand for six weeks to try to overcome her addiction.

Dalton, a shop worker of Russell Place, Russell Square, Tallaght pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to three separate shoplifting charges. Judge Denis McLoughlin adjourned the case against her for the production of a probation report.

The court heard Dalton went to Tesco, The Square, Tallaght, on June 10, 2009 and stole alcohol worth €53. She was arrested at the scene. The next day, she was arrested at Marks & Spencer in Tallaght, where she tried to leave the store without paying for men's clothing worth €155. On November 19 last year, she was arrested at B&Q, Belgard Road, Tallaght, for stealing €87 worth of wallpaper. The goods in all three cases were recovered.

Dalton had no previous convictions of any kind.


She had been in custody at Mountjoy's Dochas Centre for six weeks before her court appearance, her solicitor Michael O'Connor said.

"She never instructed us to make a bail application," Mr O'Connor said. "Her instructions were very clear -- she wished to remain in custody to sort herself out."

The court heard Dalton's children were aged 11, eight and four years.

She had contracted meningitis, which had a severe effect on her right arm, damaging the tendons and causing loss of sensation. "She lost her job, her life fell apart and she has been taking heroin ever since," Mr O'Connor explained.

The charges before the court arose as a direct result of her addiction. After leaving custody she hoped that her medical issues could be sorted out and that she could get back to a normal life, Mr O'Connor said.

She had not come to the attention of the gardai since the last offence, in November. Judge McLoughlin noted that a previous probation report stated that she had an "unsatisfactory level of engagement" with the service.

He said if she co-operated with the Probation Service, jail was "not on the agenda".