A WOMAN who was jailed for opening a box of Pringles worth €1.50 in a shop she was barred from has said that she worried she would spend Christmas in prison.
Kathleen McDonagh (25) says she is in shock after she was given a four month sentence at Court District Court this week for opening the Pringles container in a Tesco outlet from which she had been barred when approached by security staff at Christmas 2016.
Ms McDonagh of Inchera, Mahon, Cork pleaded guilty to causing criminal damage to the €1.50 packet of potato snacks at the Tesco outlet in the Mahon Point Shopping complex on December 27 2016.
Judge Brian O’Shea suspended the final two months of her sentence as she co-operated with gardai and pleaded guilty.
Ms McDonagh is out on bail pending an appeal but spent two hours in the court cells until her mother managed to borrow €200 for her release.
She told The Sunday World she is still coming to terms with what happened and feels her sentence was too harsh.
Ms McDonagh said: “Even now, I can’t believe this is happening.
“There are people caught dealing heroin getting suspended sentences, paedophiles walking out the door of courts up and down the country after being found guilty, and then there’s me – jailed for two months for opening a poxy €1.50 box of Pringles that I was on my way up to pay for.”
Judge O’Shea was told by Inspector Ronan Kenneally that the defendant was barred from the Tesco outlet involved on the date in question.
However, she entered the supermarket, took the tube of Pringles crisps from a display shelf and proceeded to a self check-out area.
Security staff became aware of the defendant’s presence in the store and walked over to her to make her aware of the fact she was barred, as they approached, she opened the crisp container in front of them.
Inspector Kenneally said the defendant informed security personnel she had deliberately opened the packet.
“(She said) I opened it so you will have to leave me pay for it,” he explained.
The court was told that, because the packet had been opened and could not be resealed, it could not be offered for re-sale.
Ms McDonagh told The Sunday World that she intended to pay for the Pringles.
“This has been going on since 2016 – it will be two years this December.
“I pleaded guilty because I thought that was the right thing to do. I did open them, I was lining up in the queue and I was paying for them, but then the man [security guard] came up and grabbed the box.
“Afterwards I actually came home and it wasn’t until a few weeks later that the gardaí came to the door with a summons.
“They said: ‘You’re summonsed for popping a box of Pringles!’ I thought, ‘are you serious?'”
Judge O’Shea was told the defendant had more than 30 previous convictions, including convictions for theft, criminal damage and handling stolen property.
Ms McDonagh, who is on disability allowance and is participating in a beautician and hairdressing course, said she didn’t expect the case to even appear in court.
“Before the case this week my solicitor thought it would be for me to pay the €1.50 cost ofthem. But it didn’t turn out that way. He [the judge] said: ‘I’m giving you four months and I’m suspending two of them’.
“I genuinely was in shock. They’re saying that I’ve previous convictions and I do, I’ve 31 previous convictions, but the biggest half of my previous convictions had to do with my mental health conditions.
“This wasn’t theft, I was lining up to pay for them. And then four months! Of course I was shocked, I mean you wouldn’t get four months for stabbing someone.
“First they put me in the custody seat and then they threw me into the cell for two hours. If it wasn’t that my mother went out and borrowed the €200 for bail then I’d be in prison right now. I’d be in prison for Christmas – €200 for to get me out – that’s an expensive box of Pringles!
“And now I have to appeal this and that’s going to cost more money. I actually think this is a disgrace, that it should never have been brought to court,” she said.
The case garnered a lot of attention during the week and Ms McDonagh says this has been difficult to deal with.
She explained: “It’s gone viral… it’s all over Facebook.
“I walked up the town and people were calling out at me, ‘there’s the Pringle girl’. How embarrassing is that for me?
“And I’m on seriously heavy medication since I was 16 years old. And the court knows that.”
Judge O’Shea said the offence had to be viewed in context against what he termed the defendant’s “Smart Alec” behaviour towards security staff, the fact she opened the Pringles tube after being asked to leave the supermarket and her history of previous convictions.
The judge said her behaviour towards the security personnel on the day was an aggravating factor in the matter.
He noted that a number of suspended sentences imposed in the district court had not apparently been successful for the defendant.
Judge O’Shea imposed a four month prison sentence but agreed to suspend the final two months in light of her co-operation with Gardaí and her guilty plea.
Recognisance was set in case of an appeal to the Circuit Court.