A BANDON grandmother has been given a three-week suspended jail sentence for not wearing a mask in a shop, but the judge said he was worried it was simply postponing a time when she would reoffend.
Margaret Buttimer, (66), of The Cottage, St Fintan’s Road, Bandon, had been warned, twice, by Judge Colm Roberts that if she appeared before him again while not wearing a mask she would be held in contempt, and on Friday May 21st when she appeared once more without a mask she was taken into custody.
Ms Buttimer was originally charged with not wearing a mask in Dunne Stores in Clonakilty on February 12th and with abusing the store manager when he asked her to wear one. He enquired if she was not wearing one due to medical reasons.
Gardaí were called and Ms Buttimer refused to provide her details, saying she had not committed any crime.
She later told gardaí and Judge Colm Roberts that she ‘only answered to God’.
Buttimer’s case had been adjourned to Bandon on Friday May 21st after Judge Colm Roberts had warned her not to come to court without a mask. However, Ms Buttimer walked into the court with no mask and was immediately taken into custody.
Judge Roberts said that her behaviour had gone from defiance to contempt and he had no choice but to remand her in custody until last Monday. He said if she wanted to be released on bail before answering the new charges before the court, then she must wear a mask and apologise to the court for her contempt.
Ms Buttimer spent one night in Cork Prison and was released on Saturday May 22nd.
She had been released by prison authorities as they are entitled to do on a three-day warrant for contempt.
When she returned to court in Bandon on Monday morning, a number of supporters had gathered with banners and flags.
However, Ms Buttimer arrived once more without a mask and indicated, through her solicitor, that she would not wear one.
Judge Roberts said that Ms Buttimer’s actions were seriously limiting his options as her solicitor Plunkett Taaffe once again asked that the case be dealt with by penalty rather than by a custodial sentence.
Judge Roberts said that he faced a dilemma. ‘Ms Buttimer, in evidence has said that she is only answerable to God,’ Judge Roberts said. ‘That creates a difficulty, that she seems to think she is not answerable to the law, to the court and to the public health needs of this country.’
Judge Robert also said that as Ms Buttimer was likely to reoffend and was unrepentant, then a custodial sentence was likely.
‘I don’t want to do that. I seriously do not want to do that,’ Judge Roberts said. He also said that he had been considering adjourning this case for the preparation of a probation report but in a ‘most unusual’ development, both sides had declined the option of a Probation Services report.
Plunkett Taaffe said that he would consult with his client as he did not want this matter to escalate, but the judge said that he wanted assurance that Ms Buttimer would not reoffend.
‘She does not have to go into a shop, that’s fine,’ the Judge said. ‘But if she does, she will have to wear a mask, as per the law.’
Judge Roberts also said that Ms Buttimer may disagree with wearing a mask in the time of a global pandemic, but she had to moderate her personal views for the benefit of the public.
Mr Taaffe said his client had never appeared before the courts before and that this matter should be treated as a first offence.
‘Margaret has raised two sons and has never been in trouble and has no previous convictions. And she has apologised for the verbal abuse of the store manager during the incident,’ Mr Taaffe said.
Mr Taaffe also told the court that his client held deep religious faith.
Judge Roberts said: ‘It does not matter whether she believes she has God on her side or not, if she doesn’t want to wear a mask, that’s fine, but she cannot enter a shop without one.’
‘She is a woman who is unrepentant for her actions, has indicated she is only answerable to God and will not change her views regarding how she acts, which leads the court to conclude there is a high chance of her re-offending.’
Judge Roberts sentenced her to three weeks in prison, suspended for two years, adding that he worried that this sentence was simply postponing a time when she would reoffend.
Mr Taaffe said that it was up to his client not to trigger the sentence. Buttimer was also fined €350 for abusing the store manager.