A 66-year-old grandmother who has spent a month in prison for her repeated refusal to wear masks in shops has received her seventh conviction for breaching Covid-19 regulations.
Margaret Buttimer (66) of The Cottage, St Fintan's Road, Bandon, Co Cork on Monday appeared before Bandon District Court in Co Cork in connection with failing to wear a mask in Supervalu Shopping Centre in the town on October 21st last.
Her solicitor Plunkett Taaffe said that whilst his client was not admitting the offence, she was also not contesting the evidence. He told Judge James McNulty that his client did not believe that she had committed an offence on the date in question by failing to wear a mask.
Dwayne Hunt, who is the manager of Supervalu in Bandon, said that he was alerted to the fact that Ms Buttimer was not wearing a mask at the tills on the morning of October 21st.
He went to the check out shortly after 10.30am on the day of the offence and asked Ms Buttimer to put on a mask. She declined. They went outside the store, and he said he again urged her to wear a mask for the safety of staff and patrons if she planned to go back in.
Whilst she was not in any way verbally abusive, Ms Buttimer informed Mr Hunt that she would be re-entering the shop without a mask.
Gardaí were called to the scene and arrived within minutes. Garda Paul Gleeson again asked Ms Buttimer to don a mask. She refused and was arrested.
No defence evidence was called. Mr Taaffe told Judge McNulty that the partner of Ms Buttimer was becoming increasingly concerned about her becoming "forgetful and doing unusual things".
A report from a consultant psychiatrist who specialises in the mental health of older people was handed in to the court for consideration. Dr Eleanor Mullan’s report indicated that there was a suggestion of a psychiatric disorder in the case but not sufficient current evidence to make a definite diagnosis.
Mr Taaffe said that his client was set to receive an MRI scan. The case was adjourned until December 16th to facilitate the taking place and analysis of the scan.
Judge McNulty convicted Ms Buttimer for breaching the Covid regulations. Five of her previous convictions relate to Ms Buttimer not wearing a mask whilst the sixth consists of a minor public order offence which occurred during the breaching of the Covid conditions.
Mr Taaffe said that there were grounds to suggest his client had a degenerative condition. However, Judge McNulty said that he was unable to indulge in “sympathetic speculation” in the absence of more definite medical evidence.
The judge deferred the imposing of the penalty in the case until December 16th next. The results and analysis of the MRI will be presented to the court on that occasion.
Meanwhile, at the first hearing of the case last month Sergeant Paul Kelly said that Ms Buttimer was a "habitual offender" in relation to flouting the Covid restrictions.
At previous and similar cases the court heard that she told management at stores that she was only answerable to God.
Mr Taaffe has repeatedly informed the court of the efforts being made by the family of his client to monitor her behaviour.
"Significant effort has been made to prevent it (the offending). But it can't be done all the time.”
Judge McNulty enquired last month if Ms Buttimer was vaccinated and was told she was not. He also asked if she was still visiting her elderly mother unvaccinated and unmasked and was informed that was the case.
Ms Buttimer has to keep the peace, be of good behaviour and commit no further offences whilst she is on bail pending her December court appearance.