Children accused of biscuit theft awarded €14k in damages

Three schoolchildren, who sued a major store for a total of €225,000 damages for defamation of character, have been awarded €14,000 between them in the Circuit Civil Court.

The children, all cousins, had claimed they had been loudly accused by a member of staff in an Iceland store, of stealing and opening a packet of biscuits.

Danny Flannagan, 13, told the president of the Circuit Court, Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, that he and his two cousins, Abbey Flannagan, 14, and her younger sister, Rihanna, had been shopping in the Iceland supermarket in Finglas, Dublin, with his aunt on August 23, 2017.

All three had sued Iceland through his aunt Angelina Maguire, of An Riasc, Farhnam Drive, Finglas Dublin 11, the mother of his two cousins.

Danny told the court his aunt Angelina had asked the three of them to go and pick something out for their school lunches.

They had found a multipack of ‘Happy Hippo’ biscuits with the outside packaging ripped open.

He told his counsel Tim Sheehan, who appeared with O’ Hanrahan Solicitors, that he and his cousins had thought the Happy Hippo biscuits may have been on sale for a reduced price because of the tear in the outer package. He said the biscuits inside the pack had been individually wrapped and had not been opened.

Danny said he had picked up the biscuits to bring back to his aunt when he noticed that an employee of the store had started to follow him and his cousins at a brisk pace.

He said the man was an employee of Iceland and had begun to shout at them that they were stealing and that they could not just open the packet and eat what they wanted. Danny said his two cousins had become very upset.

He told Mr Sheehan that he had felt very embarrassed as the man had been shouting loudly and he had been worried other shoppers in the store were going to overhear him.

Danny said he had put down the packet as he walked along and returned to where his aunt was.

He said the employee had then talked to Ms Maguire and was still raising his voice telling her the children had opened the packet even though it had not been paid for.

Abbey told the court that they had only wanted to bring the packet back to her mother, Angelina Maguire, to ask if the product had been reduced in price due to the tear in the outer packet.

Judge Groarke awarded Abbey €5,000 against Iceland Ltd and €4,500 each for Danny and Rihanna, together with Circuit Court costs.

Defamation claims cannot be taken in the District Court and must be heard in the Circuit Court or the High Court.

The maximum amount that can be awarded by the Circuit Court for defamation is €75,000 in each case and, although the maximum jurisdiction is claimed in such cases, is not specifically the award expected by the claimant.

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