Woman avoids prison because of her children

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A woman who made off without paying for cleaning services the day after she received a suspended sentence for theft has avoided jail because social services has ‘deemed her suitable’ to care for four children.

Mary Teresa Stokes, of Cornshell Fields, was convicted of making off without paying on September 28, last year.

Derry Magistrates Court heard the 44-year-old hired a cleaning company to clean her carpets and sofa.

The work took about two hours and the company charged £90 for their service.

Stokes told the cleaner she had to go to the Post Officer to get the money to pay him, however she never returned and the cleaner went to the police.

She later rang police and claimed the work wasn’t carried out properly. Stokes also claimed it had always been her intention to pay the cleaning company and the cleaner had left before she came back.

The 44-year-old was convicted of the offence in her absence and it was revealed it was committed the day after sshe receive d a suspended sentence for theft.

Defence counsel Stephen Chapman asked the court to take an ‘exceptional’ course in this case.

He told the court Stokes’s husband is currently away from the family and this has had a ‘detrimental effect’ on her mental health.

The barrister added that Stokes has been deemed appropriate to look after her late brother-in-law’s children, who are aged between four and fourteen.

It was confirmed to the court there are ongoing proceedings in relation to this and that social services believe Stokes is the right person to look after the children.

Suspending a prison sentence, Deputy District Judge Liam McStay told Stokes “I think you can see how close you are to getting a prison sentence, and quite a lengthy one.

“The only thing that stays my hand is that you have been deemed suitable to look after four children who need a steady person at this time’.

He said this was the only reason she was not going to custody and warned the 44-year-old if there were any further offences there is ‘very litle chance of you avoiding prison’.

The judge suspended a three month sentence for 18 months and ordered her to pay £90 compensation to the cleaning company.