10 Aug 2022

‘Slap in the face’ to taxpayers as woman in Midlands on free legal aid travels to Turkey

Longford court house.

A judge has been urged to revoke the legal aid of a woman in the Midlands accused of carrying out a feud-related assault

The woman spent ten days in Turkey getting cosmetic dental treatment done while on free legal aid after getting her bail terms relaxed.

Thirty-five-year-old Teresa Dinnegan, 18 Grian Ard, Longford jetted out to the Aegean coastal city of Izmir after Judge Bernadette Owens relaxed her bail terms for two weeks for the purposes of “dental work” to be carried out.

Ms Dinnegan, who together with two other co-accused, is charged with carrying out an assault on another woman inside Penneys, Longford Shopping Centre on March 16.

All three were arrested and subsequently charged after an alleged brawl broke out in front of shocked customers and staff, resulting in the store’s closure for a number of hours.

Details surrounding Ms Dinnegan's bail while depending on the taxpayer-funded criminal legal aid system has led to stinging criticism for a major overhaul.

Fine Gael Senator Micheál Carrigy said the controversy was effectively showing “two fingers to the taxpayers of Longford” and urged for the courts to take a tougher hand when granting bail.

“When you see people granted bail and given legal aid and then are able to travel abroad on a holiday, I just think there needs to be a review of the free legal aid (system),” said Senator Carrigy.

“I think the judiciary needs to take a stronger view and take into consideration the views of local gardaí.

“We can’t have a situation where people have conditions to their bail and then have the ability to leave the country.

“I don’t agree with it. Bail conditions are there for a reason and should be kept and in this case, it needs to be reviewed and revoked.”

Those sentiments were shared by Longford Fianna Fáil Cllr Seamus Butler, who said the controversy illustrated the need for justice chiefs to closely examine an individual’s personal financial circumstances before signing off on free legal aid.

"If you didn't know better you would think it was some kind of set-up," said local Cllr Seamus Butler.

"What this does is it absolutely epitomises regardless of a person's circumstances, the need for a person's means to be rigorously examined because anyone that can go on a trip to Turkey and have cosmetic dentistry carried out needs to be investigated.

"What this is is a slap in the face to so many people who are struggling to make ends meet with the cost of living and with so many struggling with fuel poverty. It's a complete and utter circus."

Ms Dinnegan is due to reappear before Longford District Court on July 5 when DPP directions will be made known.

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