A Wicklow woman who stole over €30,000 from the hospital where she worked as an administrator is to be sentenced in a year's time.
Laura Byrne (40), from Ardglass, Baltinglass, appeared before Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on November 15 on 92 signed guilty pleas from the District Court.
She affirmed her guilty pleas to eight sample counts of theft and two counts of deception by the use of a false instrument, namely false HSE receipts, between April 16, 2015 and October 21, 2016.
Byrne admitted stealing a total of €30,413 during the period outlined from two wards at Clonskeagh Hospital which provides care and post-surgery rehabilitation to elderly outpatients.
The court heard that patients pay €5 a day to attend these daycare units, covering the cost of a meal and transport. The money stolen was an accumulation of these €5 payments.
Garda Ray Lyons told Gráinne O'Neill BL, prosecuting, that each daycare ward had its own cash book secured by an administration staff member.
During 2015 and 2016, the money from patients was typically collected by Byrne, who was expected to lodge receipts to the HSE and also to keep an electronic record.
Concerns were raised when the cashbooks were found to contain some unofficial receipts signed by Byrne, and a number of weeks where no receipts had been filed at all.
Clonskeagh Hospital analysed its files and reported €30,413 as being stolen from Cáirde Padraig Ward and Willows Ward.
Gardaí arrived at Byrne's home where she claimed to be surprised, but subsequently attended at a garda station by arrangement for interview. She produced a pre-prepared statement admitting to the theft, apologising and explaining her circumstances.
Byrne said in the statement that her husband had suffered a serious accident at work and had been out of his job for two years, mostly without pay.
She said her husband had only been back at work a short while when he suffered a heart attack, leaving her to manage the household finances and deal with debt and bills.
“My back was against the wall,” she wrote in her statement, adding that she knew it was wrong but was under extreme stress and pressure at the time and was suffering from anxiety and panic attacks.
“It was always and still is my full intention to repay every cent,” she said, emphasising how sorry she was and that she had a full record of all the payments.
Byrne has no previous convictions.
Garda Lyons agreed with Luigi Rea BL, defending, that Byrne was “extremely distressed” and affected by her difficulties.
The garda also agreed that were it not for the misfortunes she had experienced, one would not expect to see someone like Byrne in court.
Mr Rea said his client had made the “fatal mistake” of thinking she might solve her financial problems on a temporary basis and was planning to repay the money when a High Court claim being made by her husband came through.
Byrne bought €3,000 to court to begin her repayment and her counsel said she wanted to clear the balance owed as soon as her husband's claim is processed.
Judge Melanie Greally adjourned the matter for 12 months to allow time for a probation report to be prepared and for Byrne to continue to make restitution for the monies stolen.
She's due to be sentenced on November 18 next year.