Alina Rostas, aged 28, was found guilty of stealing the bottle of Flowerbomb perfume from Crowley’s Pharmacy in Drimoleague, West Cork, on October 6. She was living at 2 Collins Apartments at the time.
Judge James McNulty was shown CCTV footage from the pharmacy which appeared to show Rostas placing the perfume, worth over €70, in her bag before she approached the counter and paid for some fake nails. She denied the charge.
Sinead Crowley, who owns and runs the pharmacy, told gardaí she saw the incident on the camera while in the dispensary. She did not challenge Rostas but later checked with staff and reviewed the till takings before contacting Bantry gardaí and providing a memory stick containing the footage.
Rostas, who has 27 previous convictions and is two months’ pregnant, failed to appear in court, first in Cork and then in Bantry.
The court heard she has been in custody since April 21 and that the case was due to be heard two weeks ago, only for Ms Crowley to fail to appear for that hearing on May 9. Judge McNulty granted a witness summons compelling Ms Crowley to appear yesterday.
When she did not, he heard that she sent an email to the courts office last week stating she would not be able to attend as she had no locum to fill in for her but that she was available on other dates.
In the email, read aloud in court, she said: “I feel I would be robbed again if I was forced to close the pharmacy to attend court.”
Judge McNulty ordered that Ms Crowley be arrested and brought to court to attend the trial.
That trial concluded with Judge McNulty saying he had “no doubt” as to Rostas’s guilt on the theft charge.
“It’s a sad and sorry day when a judge has to sentence an expectant mother to several months in prison, but that is what it has come to,” he said.
Describing Rostas as “an experienced thief and a savvy criminal”, he sentenced her to 10 months in prison, backdated to April 21, as well as a concurrent four-month jail term for her failure to appear in Bantry court, also backdated.
He turned to Ms Crowley, saying her sending of the email was “bad form”.
“It really needs to be read once or twice to grasp the audacity,” he said, claiming it showed “an element of professional arrogance” at a time when gardaí and others had expended considerable resources on bringing the initial theft matter to trial.
Fergus Appelbe, for Ms Crowley, apologised on her behalf and said she was stressed as her mother was recently convicted of serious offences.
Judge McNulty asked why she hadn’t closed the pharmacy to attend court and carry out her “civic duties”.
Ms Crowley apologised and her solicitor agreed she will give €2,000 to the West Cork Women Against Domestic Violence project.