Grandmother jailed for 90 days for failure to wear mask in shops

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Judge said Margaret Buttimer had disregarded the rights to health and safety of those who work in frontline retail



14 July 2021 | 0

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Cork grandmother Margaret Buttimer (aged 66) has been jailed for a total of 90 days for not wearing a facemask in shops in incidences that a judge described as “deliberate and repeated, persistent and wilful, and without justification, or any lawful excuse”.

Margaret Buttimer previously received a suspended sentence for an earlier offence in which she did not wear a mask, as required by laws introduced to fight the spread of Covid-19.

She had pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to wear a mask while in shops in Bandon on two dates in May, in addition to a conviction which arose following an incident in Clonakilty in February. Sentencing for the former two charges was suspended until 12 July, awaiting the provision of a medical report.

Ms Buttimer also allegedly refused to wear a mask at SuperValu, Riverview Shopping Centre in Bandon, on 25 June and 1 July. The latter of these incidents allegedly took place place while she was on bail, under conditions which prohibited her from being in certain parts of Bandon and from entering retail premises.

The Irish Examiner reports that Ms Buttimer contested the most recent charges in court. Judge James McNulty heard evidence from the store manager at SuperValu in Bandon, Alan Owens, that he had encountered Ms Buttimer on both occasions, once in-store and a second time at the entrance. Both times she did not wear a mask, he said and two gardaí also testified to that effect. 

Dr Eleanor Mullan, of the Department of Psychiatry of Old Age in UCC, and  a psychologist submitted medical reports. The court also heard that the defendant did not recall having pleaded guilty last month to two earlier offences.

 “The primary duty of a citizen is to obey the law,” Judge McNulty ruled.

“Inexplicably and inexcusably, Margaret Buttimer has shown profound disrespect for all those who have lost their business, employment, travel, and educational opportunities, lost lives and loved ones, suffered health impairment, and put lives on hold, and tolerated restraints which are much greater than just having to wear a mask when shopping,” he added, as well as stating that Ms Buttimer has disregarded the rights to health and safety of those who work in frontline retail.

He said Dr Mullan’s report was “inconclusive”, with an MRI scan being recommended, and he said the clinical psychology report recommends a further assessment in nine to 12 months’ time.

“In the absence of clear and conclusive medical evidence, the court cannot, unfortunately, indulge in sympathetic speculation as to possible causes for the offending,” said the judge.

For the offences in Bandon on May 12 and May 14, he gave two 14-day terms of imprisonment, adding that because Ms Buttimer had spent the past 12 days in prison, those two sentences were deemed to have been served.

As for the June 25 offence, he imposed a sentence of 30 days imprisonment. 

For the July 1 offence, he imposed a sentence of 60 days. Judge McNulty said this sentence was committed while Margaret Buttimer was on bail, and would have to be served consecutively.

“Accordingly, the sentences total 90 days, and to be served forthwith,” he said, adding that he would not activate the previous suspended sentence of 21, but that it remained open to the court to do so.

Judge McNulty set recognisance for any appeal at Ms Buttimer’s own bond of €100, no cash required, and two sureties of €300, as well as an undertaking that she would be supervised and that she would not commit any offences.

Ms Buttimer’s solicitor said an appeal would not be lodged.



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