Defendant sentenced but was freed after lodging appeal at Tullamore District Court
A WOMAN with 26 previous theft convictions walked free from court when she lodged an appeal against a sentence imposed after she pleaded guilty to stealing cash and property from cars, using stolen bank cards and possessing counterfeit cash.
The court was told that Leanna Hughes, 26, had gone 'off the rails' because of an incident which happened her when she was younger.
Ms Hughes, of no fixed abode but also with an address at 14 Meadow Close, Tullamore, was freed after lodging an appeal against a five-month prison sentence, including two months which were suspended.
Her guilty plea was entered after Judge Bernadette Owens refused bail, noting she had 37 previous convictions for offences committed while on bail.
Ms Hughes appeared in custody last Wednesday, May 6 and Garda Shane Jennings gave evidence of arresting, charging and cautioning her the previous evening at Tullamore garda station.
He said she made no comment when the charges, which alleged offences on various dates between April 5 and May 5 last, were put to her.
Garda Jennings said an application for bail was being opposed and he outlined the allegations against the woman and her previous convictions, including offences committed when she was on bail.
After she entered her guilty plea, Garda Jennings detailed the offences before the court, saying she had stolen a wallet containing bank cards from an unlocked car parked at Charleville View, Tullamore on April 6 last.
A card from that wallet was used on the same date to buy €26 worth of groceries at Circle K, Naas Road, Rathcoole, Co Dublin, and €23.50 worth of groceries at Applegreen, Naas Road, Dublin.
Between April 5 and 6, also at Charleville View, she stole a wallet with bank cards from a different unlocked car and it was used at Circle K, Kill, Co Kildare, to the value of €30, and at Circle K, Citywest, Dublin 24, for €53.80 worth of property.
Other thefts committed by the woman were €20 in coins from a car at Knockowen Road in Tullamore on April 7; two pairs of sunglasses worth €200 and €50 from a car at Droim Liath, Tullamore, plus another €20 worth of coins, on April 4; and a teeshirt worth €30.99 from Lidl, Church Road in the town on April 5.
The final theft charge related to air buds worth €50 and sunglasses valued at €20 which were stolen from an unlocked vehicle at Sheena, Charleville Road, Tullamore on May 2.
Garda Jennings said 17 counterfeit €10 notes in the possession of the woman were found in a search of 14 Meadow Close on May 5 last.
The woman had a total of 76 previous convictions, including 26 for theft. Her most recent conviction dated from September last year at the Criminal Courts of Justice when she was sentenced to six months for burglary.
Her most recent conviction for theft dated from July, 2018, Garda Jennings added, and there was also a three-year sentence for robbery dating from March, 2017, and a separate three-year sentence imposed in July, 2017. Part of one of those sentences was suspended for 18 months.
Previous convictions dated back to 2013, in 2014 she was convicted of taking a motor vehicle and in 2018 she was convicted of assault causing harm.
Ms Hughes had been granted legal aid and her solicitor, Patrick Martin, said she had been in prison from 2017 until January this year and spent a period residing with her father until she was told he was no longer going to accommodate her. She now had an address in Arden View.
He said she was receiving counselling in relation to what had happened her when she was younger and she also had addressed that issue in prison.
Mr Martin said she apologised to all the people who were at a loss because of her thefts but unfortunately she did not have any compensation for them.
He stressed that the cars from which she had stolen the items were not locked.
Mr Martin hoped she would now be given the chance to rehabilitate herself and it appeared she was now relatively clear of drugs which had been a problem for her.
Ruling on the matter, Judge Owens took into account the guilty plea, Garda Jennings' observation that there were no aggravating factors in the thefts, and Mr Martin's indication that she had been trying to get some assistance for herself.
She imposed a sentence of five months on four of the charges and suspended the final two months on Ms Hughes' own bond of €250, saying she would be subject to the supervision of the probation service during the suspension period of 12 months. All the other charges taken into consideration.
Judge Owens then fixed recognisances for an appeal and when those recognisances were taken up by Ms Hughes she was released.