State ‘forced’ mother of five to shoplift

A mother of five is claiming she had been forced to shoplift to feed and clothe her family because she received no financial help from the State.

The woman, it emerged, has outstanding ESB and rent payments totalling over €2,000.

A judge yesterday directed a solicitor to keep the Department of Social Protection informed about the woman’s plight.

“I don’t want five children on the side of the road, or in a house with no power, and a state body saying later they did not know about the situation,” Judge William Hamill said at Dundalk District Court yesterday.

He was commenting on an adjourned case against Guna Levcenkova, 29, with addresses at Ath Leathan, Racecourse Road, Dundalk and Beechmount Drive, Cox’s Demesne, Dundalk. She had previously admitted 12 charges of theft from supermarkets and shops in Dundalk and Drogheda on dates between Feb 10, 2010 and Jul 23, 2011.

The case had been adjourned for a probation report to be prepared.

All the charges related to shoplifting of food and clothes, her solicitor Sean T O’Reilly had told the court.

He said his client had also been stopped on five other occasions by shopkeepers and items had been taken off her without the gardaí being informed. He said it appeared local businesses knew about his client’s circumstances.

The solicitor said he had begun representing the defendant two-and-a-half years ago but all her applications for Jobseekers’ payments, Back to School allowances and child benefit had been refused and appealed without success.

The refusals were being further appealed, the court heard.

Mr O’Reilly said his client currently owed €1,215 to the ESB and €900 rent to her landlord.

The ESB, he said, attempted to call on her but she didn’t open the door.

The landlord has been more than reasonable, Mr O’Reilly said.

The court heard the defendant had occasionally secured some low-paid employment, which allowed her pay some bills and also receive some emergency funding from the HSE, but this had now stopped.

She had been helped by the people of Dundalk and the local Latvian and Lithuanian communities but the same, he said, “could not be said of the State services”.

Mr O’Reilly said Ms Levcenkova had four schoolgoing children and a fifth was due to start school in the autumn.

He suggested the State was “doing nothing” to help his client.

Judge Hamill remarked action would have to be taken if the matter became a child welfare issue.

“Someone will have to address the issue if the ESB is cut off or the family put on the side of the road,” he said.

The judge remanded the defendant on continuing bail and adjourned the case to Aug 30 but warned the matter could not continue “ad infinitum”.

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