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Out and about 'Greedy thief' who stole €55k from doctor's surgery freed two months into 15 month sentence

Our pictures show Anita Gallagher looking like 'butter wouldn't melt' as she walked out of a step-down 'outlook centre' in Dublin this week

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Anita Gallagher is said to be a low risk to society

Anita Gallagher is said to be a low risk to society

Anita Gallagher is said to be a low risk to society

A crooked doctor's receptionist, jailed for 15 months in November for stealing €55,000 from her employer, is back on the streets after spending just over two months in prison.

Our pictures show 'greedy thief' Anita Gallagher - who ramped up her thieving when the doctor's wife was hospitalised for medical treatment, looking as if 'butter wouldn't melt' as she walked out of a step-down 'outlook centre' in Dublin this week.

The 55-year-old was transferred from the Dochas Prison to the centre, where she is free to come and go as she pleases, after spending just two months and eight days behind bars.

Details of how trusted employee Gallagher, who was under no financial pressure, carried out a systematic six-year campaign of theft from Dr John Peters' surgery in Clonee emerged at her sentencing hearing in November.

Gallagher had been working as a receptionist for Dr Peters at his Dublin 15 practice since 2001.

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Anita Gallagher going about her business among the public

Anita Gallagher going about her business among the public

Anita Gallagher going about her business among the public

 

The doctor became suspicious in 2019 that money had been stolen.

He discovered through his own investigation that Gallagher was regularly stealing the €60 fee that private patients of the practice were paying instead of adding the cash to the till.

Gallagher had been taking an average of €8,000 a year from 2013 to 2019.

Detective Garda Bernard Connaughton told Rónán Prendergast BL, prosecuting, that Dr Peters' wife was the practice manager and Gallagher's offending behaviour often increased while she was away for prolonged periods, on occasion while the woman was in hospital receiving medical treatment.

Gallagher resigned from the practice in September 2019 after Dr Peters called her in for a meeting to discuss the findings of his own internal investigation.

She immediately made admissions and apologised but asked that her family not be told about it.

Her marriage of 28 years broke down when gardaí later called at her home in June 2020 to arrest her after Dr Peters reported the thefts.

Gallagher subsequently moved in with her elderly father.

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Gallagher, of Bramblefield Crescent, Littlepace, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to eight sample charges of stealing from the practice, Littlepace Medical Centre, on dates between January 2013 and August 2019.

She had no previous convictions.

Judge Melanie Greally said that the offending was an extreme betrayal of the trust placed in Gallagher both as an employee and as a family friend in a small, close-knit family practice.

She noted that Gallagher was under "no financial pressure" motivating her to steal from her employer.

Judge Greally described it as a crime of "opportunism" over a sustained period of time, during which Gallagher stole "at a level where detection was going to be difficult".

She said there was no obvious explanation or motive given and the only apparent motivation was basic greed.

"She only stopped once she was detected," Judge Greally said.

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Anita Gallagher served only two months in prison

Anita Gallagher served only two months in prison

Anita Gallagher served only two months in prison

 

She noted that Gallagher's father has since stepped in to repay the full amount stolen. She noted this as a factor in mitigation, alongside her guilty plea and her full and repeated expressions of remorse.

But she said that the aggravating factors, including the number of thefts and the persistence over a prolonged period of time, meant a custodial sentence was necessitated.

She set a headline sentence of three and a half years, but after taking mitigation into account she reduced this by one year.

She suspended the final 15 months of this on condition that Gallagher keep the peace for that period.

She also ordered Gallagher to engage with the Probation Service and to attend her GP for a mental health review and "strongly advised" her to engage with therapeutic services and a money and budgeting service.

Judge Greally had noted the very large number of letters and testimonials from family, friends and neighbours and former colleagues, which "all describe her as being very kind, good-natured, a good friend and neighbour".

Contacted about Gallagher's release from prison just two months into her 18-month sentence, the Irish Prison Service declined to comment on the details of her particular case.

In a statement concerning the transfer of inmates from the Dochas Women's Centre to Outlook Programmes, a spokesperson said: "The vision of the Outlook Programme is to promote the rehabilitation and re-integration of women leaving prison and those who have accommodation needs requiring support in the community.

"The programme supports women serving sentences of imprisonment who pose a low risk to society to gradually re-integrate to the community.

"Following a referral and assessment process, women are moved from the Dochas Centre to live at the Outlook Programme in order to progress their positive sentence management.

"The women the programme caters for are required to be drug free and have, in general, been convicted of one-off offences."

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