Pregnant woman jailed over unpaid litter fine

A PREGNANT mother-of-eight who just returned from a sun holiday in Spain was locked up in Limerick jail last night over an unpaid litter fine.

Jean Kelly from Clarina Avenue is serving a five-day sentence over an unpaid €125 litter fine.

She is doing a concurrent five-day stretch for an unpaid debt to a credit union.

She is due out tomorrow.

On learning there was a warrant out for her arrest, Kelly presented herself at the prison gates earlier this week. She had just returned home to Limerick after a two-week sun holiday in Spain.

Kelly is expecting her ninth baby next month.

The litter offence happened in January 2006 and she failed to pay the fine in the time given by the court.

She also failed to pay back a credit union debt.

A court committal warrant was issued to the gardaí when she failed to pay the fine and did not pay instalment orders granted by a judge to a credit union

A source in the prison said: “When the gardaí contacted her to tell her they had no choice but to arrest her and bring her to the jail, she told them she would prefer to serve five days in jail and have the debt and the fine eliminated all in the one go.”

She is one of 20 women at present serving time in the female wing of Limerick prison.

Last year, a pregnant woman from West Limerick was brought to Limerick prison after she refused to pay outstanding fines for a motoring offence.

The morning after she was brought to the prison, she complained of pains and was rushed to the Regional Maternity Hospital, but was discharged.

On leaving the hospital she went home and the prison authorities suspended the remainder of her five day sentence.

She was brought back to the hospital a few days later where she gave birth.

Fianna Fáil general election candidate in Limerick East, Councillor Noreen Ryan yesterday said jailing a heavily pregnant woman for an unpaid fine was totally disproportionate.

She said sentences in such cases should be replaced by community service orders of the kind imposed on supermodel Naomi Campbell.

A garda spokesman said they have no choice but to enforce court orders. However, they make every effort to try and get the person involved to pay outstanding fines.

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