Belfast Telegraph

Fury at £15k court bill as mother found not guilty of stealing £1.79 pacifier

Almost £15,000 was spent prosecuting a young mother accused of stealing a child's dummy worth just £1.79, it has emerged.

Barbora Batykova, a Slovakian national with an address at Chapel Street in Cookstown, gave her crying child a dummy from a shelf on her way into Tesco in Cookstown, but forgot to pay for it — and found herself in front of a jury accused of theft.

It has now emerged the cost of taking Ms Batykova to court came to a staggering £14,960 — including £959 on interpreters’ fees.

The figures were released following an Assembly question from Lord Morrow, who is chairman of the Stormont Justice Committee.

He said the public would be shocked by the cost of Ms Batykova’s case.

“It is most disturbing to discover that taxpayers’ money has been appropriated to the tune of an estimated £14,960,” he said.

“The public will fail to understand how this expenditure can be justified, bearing in mind the defendant was unanimously found not guilty by the jury.”

In court last month the prosecution claimed Ms Batykova (26) took the dummy from its wrapper and placed it in her child’s mouth while she shopped for groceries.

They claimed she intentionally went through the checkout, failing to pay for the dummy.

But the jury at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court did not agree and took just 20 minutes to find her not guilty.

A breakdown of the case costs shows the PPS spent £1,000 on prosecuting fees, with PSNI costs coming to £358.

Some £10,000 was spent on legal aid fees, jury expenses came to £409 and court and judiciary staff cost £1,874.

Defending the decision to prosecute, a PPS spokeswoman said theft was a criminal offence.

“In circumstances where it was not possible to offer a caution or other diversionary option, the PPS proceeded by way of prosecution in the Magistrates Court,” she said.

“Prosecution in the Magistrates’ Court was a proportionate response to an offence of this nature and would not have given rise to the level of costs incurred in the Crown Court.

“However, the accused exercised her statutory right to trial by jury resulting in greater costs and, in particular, costs for the defence which are estimated at 10 times those of the prosecution.

“It is for the Assembly to consider whether ... the accused should continue to have the statutory right to opt for trial in the Crown Court, which is inevitably more expensive, or whether trial before an experienced judge in the Magistrates’ Court would be sufficient to safeguard the rights of the accused.”

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