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Woman posed as immigration officer before punching woman and robbing laptop

Woman posed as immigration officer before punching woman and robbing laptop

A young woman who posed as an immigration officer before stealing a Chinese woman's laptop and punching her in the face has been given a suspended three-year sentence.

Clare Dowling (22) of Courtney Place, Ballybough, Dublin , pleaded guilty to one count of theft and assault causing harm to Xiao Chang at Moore St, Dublin 1 on May 3, 2014.

Garda Adrian Cahill told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today that Dowling knocked on Ms Chang's door and pretended to be an immigration official. She returned shortly afterwards with a man and the pair entered Ms Chang's apartment under the guise of wanting to see her Garda National Immigration Bureau card.

The man then took Ms Chang's laptop and fled. Dowling tried to follow, but Ms Chang barred her way out while calling 999. Dowling escaped from the apartment through a window.

Seamus Clarke BL, prosecuting, said that after talking to gardaí on the phone, Ms Chang made her way down to the Ilac Shopping Centre to see if she could find the pair. She recognised Dowling, who had taken off her jacket and let her hair down.

When Ms Chang approached her, Dowling punched her in the face, causing her to bleed from the mouth. Ms Chang could not be located to give a victim impact statement and is since believed to have returned to China, Gda Cahill said.

The court heard Dowling has 23 previous convictions, including burglary and theft. No charges were brought against her accomplice, which Gda Cahill said he was “surprised” by.

Keith Spencer BL, defending, said Dowling was under the influence of her accomplice – an older man who supplied her with heroin - when she carried out the offence. “He had an extremely malign and manipulative influence on her,” Mr Spencer said.

Dowling was addicted to heroin and tablets at the time and was homeless after she fell out with her mother, a Jehovah's Witness, over her refusal to get involved in that religion, the court heard.

Mr Spencer said Dowling was now drug-free, had reduced her methadone intake to 20ml a day, was in a new relationship and was living with her boyfriend and his mother.

“She cringes when she thinks of what she did on this day and the manner in which she treated this unfortunate Chinese lady,” he said. Dowling now hoped to complete a course to teach English to foreign nationals, the court heard.

Sentencing Dowling, Judge Patrick McCartan said it was an “extremely vicious assault” and he did not believe she was under the influence of drugs when she carried out the offence.

“She was able to pull off a clever stunt, convince the woman she was someone in authority, dress herself up to look professional and spend some time pretending to be someone else,” the judge said.

He noted she had received leniency in the courts before, but said he would give her another chance.

He handed down three-year sentences for both offences, but ordered they run concurrently and suspended them entirely.

“You're on your very last chance,” he told Dowling. “Next time you'll go to prison.”