Woman broke Magherafelt church windows ‘a cry for help’

A woman who smashed four stained glass windows in Magherafelt chapel, causing almost £5,000 damage, was placed on Probation for two years at the local Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

Thirty-seven-year-old Grace Peden, whose address was given as Beechland Drive, Magherafelt, admitted a charge of criminal damage at The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption on August 7.

District Judge Oonagh Mullan also ordered the defendant to complete 50 hours of Community Service.

Ms Mullan remarked that given the defendant’s limited means she would not make a compensation order for the damage, totalling £4,750.

Derry IRA accused released on bail.

The court heard the damage was expected to be paid by church insurance.

Prosecuting counsel told the court that police had attended Our Lady of the Assumption Church in the early hours of the morning where a member of the public had detained a female.

He said the defendant identified herself to them and officers carried out a “walk through” in which they noted four stained glass windows had been damaged and broken glass and debris was lying on the ground.

Peden, who appeared in court by video-link from her solicitor’s office, later made a full admission of having committed the offence, counsel added.

Pleading for leniency defence lawyer Dean Mooney said on this particular night the defendant was dealing with a “personal crisis” after having left the home of an individual she had been living with.

Mr Mooney described the incident as “a cry for help”, and she was asking the police to take her away.

He stressed it was not a hate crime and there was nothing of a sinister nature involved.

The lawyer said the defendant was now living in the MUST hostel in Cookstown but hoped to secure permanent accommodation from the Housing Executive at Milburn in the town.

Mr Mooney explained Peden has a number of children but owing to her addiction problems she has no contact with them.

Continuing, he said in terms of sentencing he was of the opinion the defendant would benefit from working with Probation Service and receiving their guidance.

Passing sentence, District Judge Mullan said she had read the pre-sentence report and described it as a sad case.

She told Peden to work with Probation over the next two years and to engage in any programmes they recommend.

The judge said she would also impose 50 hours of Community Service, and expressed the hope that the order would “fill up your free time whenever you felt like reaching for a drink”.