No jail for mum stealing to feed children

A mother of five who said she was forced to steal food and clothes for her children has escaped a conviction at the end of a case that saw the HSE and the Department of Social Welfare appearing before a district judge.

No jail for mum stealing to feed children

Guna Levcenkova thanked members of the public for their support. It emerged strangers had driven from Belfast to bring her food and schoolbooks after reading about her plight.

At Dundalk District Court yesterday, Judge William Hamill heard Ms Levcenkova, aged 30, had completed 40 hours voluntary work and has been offered a job on a Community Employment Scheme.

“Something good has come out of it,” said Judge Hamill. He then applied the Probation Act, which means he did not proceed to record a conviction against her for any of the 11 charges dating from 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Previous courts heard she was stealing to feed her children. Ms Levcenkova has addresses at Ath Leathan, Racecourse Road, Dundalk, and Beechmount Drive, Cox’s Demesne, Dundalk.

The case was first before Judge Hamill in 2011. Her solicitor, Sean T O’Reilly, told the court she was not in receipt of any welfare benefit or financial support from the HSE at that time.

Judge Hamill then invited representatives from social welfare, the HSE and community welfare to court to explain why the accused had been refused assistance.

Her court case made national news headlines and she received some emergency payments from the HSE.

Speaking yesterday, Mr O’Reilly said his client had left “appalling circumstances”, in Latvia to come to Ireland and had wanted a better life for her five daughters, who are aged 4, 5, 8, 9, and 11.

She arrived in Ireland in 2009 and got social welfare payments in Jul 2012. He said it was 18 months after she first appeared before the court until she received welfare payments. She did receive three emergency payments from the HSE in the intervening period.

“She had great help from the people of Dundalk and from people who heard about her,” said Mr O’Reilly. “People she didn’t know drove from Belfast with food and schoolbooks and toys for the children. She is now in a position to contribute to society and is a testament to Judge Hamill who did not allow her and her family to drop into delinquency. Probation officer Sheena Norton also provided her assistance.”

Ms Levcenkova said: “I want to thank the judge for his help and the people of Dundalk and other people who helped me.”

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