A mother-of-three told a judge today that the purpose of her setting up a charity shop which went unregistered was to assist local causes, including families suddenly bereaved who needed money for funeral expenses.
Maureen Gaughan, owner of what was known as The Second Chance Boutique, American Street, Belmullet told Judge Alan Mitchell at Belmullet District Court that she had not gained personally from the charity venture.
The Second Chance Boutique was closed by the Charities Regulator under a “cease and desist order” following a complaint by a member of the public.
When she appeared in court today, Mrs. Gaughan pleaded guilty to breaching the Charities Act 2009.
Garda Daniel Malone said that when he investigated on December 3, 2015, following a complaint from a member of the public, Ms Gaughan admitted the shop wasn’t operating as a registered charity.
He said 76 bags of second hand clothing and boxes of toys and books, as well as €362 cash, were seized from the premises.
In evidence Mrs. Gaughan said she had been involved for years with St. Vincent de Paul and when the charity’s shop in Belmullet closed she tried to fill the void.
She said she collected money for anyone looking for help, including the families of road traffic victims.
Judge Mitchell said it had not been proven that the defendant gained personally from the venture, but added that he could not disregard the fact there had been a breach of the charities act and he had to send out a message in that regard.
Remanding the case to November, the judge said he would dismiss under the Probation Act if €500 was paid to the RNLI.
He commented that the donation to the RNLI was appropriate given that yesterday Wednesday was the first anniversary of the R116 helicopter tragedy.
Judge Mitchell ordered forfeiture of the cash and property seized by Gardai.