A 48-year-old woman has been handed a community service order for a litany of theft charges in order to deal with her “very serious alcohol problem”.
Noreen Mallon, of Castle Hill, Dungannon, appeared at Armagh Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday charged with six counts of theft.
District Judge Paul Copeland stated that it was a “clean up” of various thefts and asked the prosecution to read out the facts of the thefts chronologically.
The first dated back to May 27, last year, when at around 10am police were called to the Eurospar on Thomas Street, Armagh, where staff claimed a woman had left the shop without paying for three bottles of wine.
Officers caught up with the woman, identified as the defendant, outside the Linen Hall Hostel, in the city, before she handed a single bottle back to them and admitted to the theft.
At around 4.45pm the very next day Mallon once again returned to the Armagh store and stole a bottle of McGuigan red wine with a retail price of £7.49.
When police reviewed CCTV footage the identified Mallon as the same thief as the day before.
The defendant was subsequently interviewed by police and she told them she did not recall the event.
On July 1, last year, security at Tesco Cityside, Belfast, called police as they had stopped a woman who was attempting to steal two bottles of wine to the value of £10.
CCTV footage showed the defendant enter the store with a plastic carrier bag, she placed the bottles in her bag before leaving through a closed till.
She was stopped by police outside the main exit and handed the stolen goods back.
When interviewed by police Mallon said that she “had no money but knew what she was doing was wrong”.
The next offence occurred in Dungannon, on February 10, this year, the defendant attempted to steal earrings and perfume to the value of £34.96 from a New Look store on Scotch Street.
When police took her into custody, a further £3.99 in stolen goods were found on her person, and she gave a full admission to the theft.
Police were once again contacted the next day regarding a theft from a Tesco store on Scotch Street, Dungannon.
When officers spotted the defendant they followed her and when approached she told police “aye, s*** sure I gave the wine back”.
CCTV footage showed Mallon lift a bottle of whisky which was security tagged before putting it back on the shelf, she then proceeded to place a bottle of wine in her handbag.
She was stopped by security on her way out but refused to do so.
Police found a bottle in her bag to the value of £8.85 and in interview she made full admission to the offence.
Finally, on March 10, this year, at 1.30pm police were called once more to Tesco Cityside, where Mallon had been detained for the theft of two bottles of wine.
The defendant was cautioned by police and when interviewed stated that she had a “chronic alcohol problem”.
Court heard that Mallon had been in custody for the last month and that she had two live suspended sentences from November 2016 for a number of theft and harassment charges.
It was also heard that she was originally from Draperstown but had been in the area as her daughter lived in Armagh.
Defence counsel, Liam McStay, pointed out that the defendant had no offences until she turned 45; they put this down to the development of a “very serious alcohol problem”.
McStay stated that she had never been offered a community service order as “the court believed for a woman of her age, a suspended sentence would be enough of a deterrent”.
He told court Mallon wishes to control her alcohol problem, but the last time she was released she was placed in a “wet hostel” with like-minded individuals.
The defence suggested that if she were released she would live with her daughter in order to tackle her “chronic alcoholism”.
District Judge Paul Copeland said that Mallon had spent enough time in custody and he felt a community-based order would be more suitable.
Mallon was ordered to complete 50 hours of community service and engage with probation for the next 18 months.
Judge Copeland told the defendant “there will be support from probation to help you steer clear of alcohol”.
He added: “You have been given a chance so please take it and don’t throw it in the face of the court”.
When asked did she have anything to say Mallon told the court, “thank you for giving me a chance, I hadn’t drank for eight years and I began doing things I can’t remember doing”.