A suspended jail sentence has been imposed on a man convicted of the theft of a bag on the train from Dublin to Kilkenny.
Shane Claffey, 5 Rosewood, Johnswell Road, Kilkenny, denied the charge. He was convicted after all the evidence was heard.
The court heard from Melissa Ndakengerwa who said she was travelling on the train from Heuston to Kilkenny on August 7, 2020. She was sitting in a four-seat section, beside the window, with her bag on the seat beside her and a suitcase on the floor beside her.
When the train had travelled 10-20 minutes from Dublin Ms Ndakengerwa said she was on her phone when she saw a man, who had been sitting across the aisle from her, stand up and take her bag.
Ms Ndakengerwa turned and said ‘that’s my bag’ and the man put it down on the table at the next four-seat section, and continued walking away. The passenger in the other seat gave the bag back to her.
When the ticket checker came along one of the other passengers told him what happened, and he spoke to Ms Ndakengerwa .
At Kilkenny Garda Station Ms Ndakengerwa spoke to gardaí and pointed out the man who took her bag.
Solicitor Chris Hogan put it to Ms Ndakengerwa that his client had been going to the toilet and knocked into the bag and it fell off the seat.
Ms Ndakengerwa said the bag did not fall. It was steady on the seat and she saw a hand pick it up.
Passenger Gary Beresford said he saw Mr Claffey stand up and the bag ‘coming over the seat’ and then it landed on the table in front of him. He was a bit surprised.
Ticket checker John Hurley said it was brought to his attention a bag had been taken from a seat and then left on another table.
He knew Mr Claffey and a carriage and a half further on he found him. Mr Hurley spoke to him and Mr Claffey insisted the bag fell off the seat. He went back to the other passengers who told Mr Hurley the bag did not fall off the seat.
Mr Hurley told Mr Claffey the best thing for him to do was leave the train or he’d call the gardaí. Mr Claffey told him to get the gardaí.
Further down the line Mr Hurley noticed Ms Ndakengerwa was now on her own in the carriage with Mr Hurley. He knew both were leaving the train in Kilkenny. He decided to contact the gardaí.
Garda Kelly O’Brien met the train at Kilkenny Garda Station. She gave evidence she spoke to Mr Hurley and Ms Ndakengerwa . Mr Claffey was arrested and taken to Kilkenny Garda Station.
When interviewed Mr Claffey again insisted the bag fell off the seat. He told gardaí: “CCTV will prove that she is a lying tramp.” He also said: “Where I was going to go with a f*cking bag?”
Garda O’Brien obtained CCTV footage from inside the train carriage and it was shown in court.
An application to dismiss the charge, from Mr Hogan, was denied.
Inspector Paul Donohoe said Ms Ndakengerwa’s evidence was clear. She was not given back her bag, she retrieved it herself after she saw Mr Claffey and shouted at him.
The CCTV was very strong, he added. It showed Mr Claffey sitting opposite Ms Ndakengerwa and staring into her face the entire time. In the garda’s opinion Mr Claffey was ‘planning’. “Another split second and he was gone with the bag.”
Judge Geradline Carthy said she had no doubt and convicted Mr Claffey.
Inspector Donohoe said Mr Claffey had 20 previous convictions.
Mr Hogan said his client is already on strict bail conditions. He was addicted to diamorphine and that caused health difficulties. He is now on a medical maintenance programme and has not used heroin for a number of months. His client was co-operative with gardaí, the solicitor said.
A sentence of seven months imprisonment was imposed, suspended for 18 months. Mr Claffey was instructed to engage with the Probation Service and any therapeutic appointments offered.
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