Woman jailed for causing "criminal damage" to a packet of Pringles

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In most circumstances, you’d have to do something pretty extraordinary to end up in prison for mishandling a bag of crisps. Maybe you’d included them in an elaborate, potato-based drug smuggling operation, or else employed a new modern martial art to incapacitate an opponent with the waft of cheese and onion. Either way, your chances of finding yourself entangled in such a controversy seems, to put it mildly, minimal. And yet, it has recently been revealed that a woman in Ireland is indeed about to serve time for crisp-based crime.

Police report that 25 year-old Kathleen McDonagh opened a pack of Pringles, worth a whopping €1.50, when she was inside a Tesco supermarket in the Irish city of Cork, before she had paid for them. Since she had already been banned from the store, Kathleen believed that by opening the crisps, she could force the shop to allow her to pay for them - at least, that is what she claimed to the court at the time of her trial.

Unfortunately, McDonagh’s plan spectacularly backfired. Instead of allowing her to pay for the item she had begun to eat, the security officer at the store noted that the damaged product could no longer be sold, asked her to leave, and contacted law enforcement. Eventually, word of the incident worked its way through the legal system, culminating in this latest shocking litigious twist.

At first glance, it might look as though McDonagh’s punishment was unnecessarily, almost ridiculously, severe. However, there’s more to this story than meets the eye. It turns out that McDonald had been previously banned from the store for a series of previous convictions including theft and criminal damage. The pringle incident appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

At her court hearing, which was held more than two years after the original incident took place, prosecutors went into great detail about McDonagh’s tempestuous relationship with the Tesco, which was only a few miles from her address in Inchera Close, Cork.

Pringle tube Credit: Pixabay/goiwara

In sworn testimony, police reiterated that, “McDonagh had been banned from the store and was known to its staff when she took the tin of Pringles and headed to the self-checkout area,” according to a report in the BBC. They then allege that, as staff approached her to try and get her to leave, McDonagh “popped the Pringles top and opened the foil seal.” According to an inspector, she then said; “I opened it so you have to leave me pay for it".

Even though her legal council begged the court to be lenient with the defendant, especially considering that she was newly married, several months pregnant and had entered a guilty plea, the judge was in no mood for charity. During sentencing, he made it clear that he felt McDonagh’s actions were nothing more than “Smart Alec behaviour”. He subsequently sentenced her to four months in prison, with two months suspended. Just goes to show that you should never mess around with crisps.