Kellie Walton spent less than one month in prison for every €218,000 she nicked from the station's bosses
Disgraced payroll administrator Kellie Walton, who began her sentence in the Dochas Women's Prison on January 19, was moved to an outreach centre in Dublin city centre at the beginning of this month where she is free to come and go as she pleases.
In effect, Walton spent less than one month in prison for every €218,000 she nicked from the station's bosses.
Our exclusive pictures show the moment we confronted the convicted thief earlier this week as she made her way back to the centre after enjoying a shopping trip in the May sunshine.
We tried to ask her whether she felt she deserved to have been released from prison after just four months, but her only reply was: "I've nothing to say to you, thanks!"
We then contacted the Irish Prison Service (IPS) in an effort to establish why the thief, who sneakily pocketed the station's cash at a time when it was financially hard-pressed, had been freed after serving just over 15 per cent of her sentence.
In response, a spokesperson said the IPS does not comment on individual cases but, speaking generally, said "the service is acutely aware of the fact that women prisoners are a vulnerable group within the prison system."
He continued: "Where a decision is made to release a prisoner before their remission date, it is important to note that the safety of the public is paramount when this decision is being made.
"Before a final determination is made a number of factors are taken into account including: the nature and gravity of the offence; the sentence concerned; the person's previous criminal record; the risk that the person might commit an offence or fail to comply with any of the conditions of temporary release."
The spokesperson continued: "All temporary releases are subject to conditions and any offender who breaches his or her conditions may be arrested and returned to prison immediately by the gardai or may be refused another period of temporary release."
Details of Walton's years of theft from Virgin Media - previously known as TV3 - were revealed ahead of her sentencing.
Detective Garda John Tuttle said Walton worked as a payroll administrator with the company from 2006 and as such authorised payments of wages and expenses to both staff and casual employees.
In order to steal the money, she would make unauthorised payments to casual staff in the name of people who previously worked there and falsified the relevant documentation to support the payment.
She would then transfer the amount to one of two bank accounts and later either withdraw the money as cash or transfer the funds to her own bank account.
Det Garda Tuttle said a garda investigation was launched after Virgin Media conducted its own internal investigation.
It was noted that €90,000 had been stolen from the company bank account and transferred to an unauthorised bank account.
Walton was identified as a suspect as she was the only person who had the access and authority to carry out such transactions.
She was on holiday when the discovery was made but agreed to take part in a web chat with her employer during which she took responsibility for taking the cash, expressed remorse and said she would make admissions later.
Det Garda Tuttle said the subsequent garda investigation led to the discovery that Walton had been stealing money over an extended period of time.
She had €2,000 remaining in her own bank account which was later frozen.
Walton was arrested on January 28, 2020 and interviewed four times during which she "exercised her right to silence", Mr Cole said.
Det Garda Tuttle agreed with Walton's barrister, Fiona Murphy SC, that Walton was heavily pregnant at the time of her arrest and was clearly upset and distressed during interviews.
Ms Murphy said Walton "couldn't engage" with the garda interviews as she was heavily pregnant at the time and "just shut down".
She said Walton was "a huge support to her husband and children" and has a "very focused attitude" towards supporting her family.
Ms Murphy told the court that Walton did not use the money to fund a lavish lifestyle or buy high-end cars or designer clothes but rather used it to "soften the edges of family life".
She said her client began stealing when her partner could not work due to ill health and the family was under "financial stress", but it then became something that "got out of control".
"As matters progressed, she got caught in a web," Ms Murphy said, describing how the mother of four lived in constant fear of being caught and was "haunted by her actions".
Ms Murphy said her client lives in rented accommodation and doesn't have a family home to show for it. "The money was frittered away on low-end, dispensable items," counsel said.
"The amounts involved are more than softening the edges," said Judge Greally, having considered that many of the amounts taken each year equated to a significant annual salary.
She said the appropriate sentence for the offending was four years in prison and suspended the final two years on strict conditions.