PPS defends decision to prosecute £1.79 baby dummy case
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has defended the decision to prosecute a woman accused of stealing a £1.79 child's dummy.
Barbora Batykova, 26, of Chapel Street, Cookstown, was cleared of theft at Dungannon Crown Court on Wednesday.
The PPS decision to proceed with the case had been described as "outrageous".
But PPS Acting Deputy Director Raymond Kitson said it was "properly taken and correct".
The prosecution had claimed Ms Batykova stole a dummy whilst shopping at Tesco, Cookstown.
A jury took 20 minutes to clear her.
The chair of the NI Assembly's Justice Committee Lord Morrow was highly critical of the PPS.
"I don't think this case ever should have been in court," he said on Thursday.
"This person was accused of theft of a product costing £1.79. If ever there was a case of a sledgehammer used to crack a nut, this is the perfect example. You and I and every other taxpayer will be left to pick up the tab."
However Raymond Kitson, from the PPS, responded to the criticism saying that the decision to prosecute was "properly taken and correct".
"A common sense practical approach would have been to offer a caution to the individual," he said.
"However, that was not an option open to the prosecution because the individual did not accept responsibility for taking the item without paying for it."
Very difficult issues
There had been speculation the case could cost up to £20,000. Lord Morrow said he would be writing to the minister of justice to establish the exact costs.
Mr Kitson told BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme that it was too early to identify the total costs.
"It may very well be that if the public is concerned about the prosecution of a case of this nature that this is an issue that should be taken forward by the assembly," he said.
"They can grapple with the very difficult issues as to whether to restrict the right of a person in certain circumstances to be tried by jury."
Ms Batykova's solicitor, John Fox, said he defended an individual's right to be tried by a jury.
"She (Ms Batykova) paid for the item before leaving the store, but nevertheless she was prosecuted," he said.
"She was found not guilty on the basis she had no intention whatsoever of stealing this item, it was quite simply a mistake, a genuine mistake, it took the jury all of about 20 minutes to reach that conclusion unanimously."
Mr Fox said the prosecution decision to advance the case was "incredible".
The PPS confirmed on Thursday that the prosecution of the case cost less than £1,000 but that does not include other costs including the defence.