A woman won €5k after claims a manager assaulted her during a Harvey Norman blackout

The retailer said she was ‘twiddling’ with the security wire attached to a display laptop.

By Ray Managh

A DUBLIN WOMAN who sued the Harvey Norman outlet at Blanchardstown for €75,000 damages over alleged assault and defamation has been awarded one-tenth of her claim.

Judge James O’Donohoe in the Circuit Civil Court awarded Suzanne Thorpe €7,500 in damages – but reduced it to €5,000 on the basis she had contributed to the situation she had found herself in.

Thorpe, of Corduff Park, Blanchardstown, Dublin, had claimed she was browsing at the iPhone and laptop counter when the lights suddenly went out in a general power failure at the store.

She claimed she had been physically restrained by store manager Neill Callan as staff, in torchlight, ushered customers from the store. She claimed he had told her: “Sorry, can you step back, I want to search your trolley.”

When cross-examined by Fiona Crawford, counsel for Harvey Norman, Thorpe denied calling Callan “a four-eyed c*nt” and shouting “are you fucking accusing me of stealing” when they were outside the store.

Callan denied he had assaulted Thorpe by placing his hand on her shoulder after the lights had gone out and telling her he wanted to search her shopping trolley.

He said that although the phones and laptops were attached to security wires, they could be removed without setting off an alarm due to the 15-minute power cut. The CCTV had also gone down.

Callan told counsel for Thorpe that he could not remember all of the expletives she had shouted at him outside the shop, but he could definitely recall her calling him a “four-eyed c*nt”.

Thorpe said she became panicky in the dark and headed for the doors. She had kept on going and Callan, after touching her shoulder, had followed her outside, all the while looking into her trolley, the court heard.

Outside he had put his arm into the trolley to inspect her purchases, but she had stopped him and offered to await the arrival of the Garda. They were never called.


Callan claimed the woman had been seen “twiddling” with the wire at the back of a laptop. Two customers and another member of staff had spoken to him about her movements, the court heard.

The manager said the power outage had taken place on a Saturday in December 2013, when the shop was busy. He said the laptop could have been removed because the alarm would not have activated.

“I never went near her in the store. When she walked out I said ‘excuse me’ and she turned around and said ‘are you fucking accusing me of stealing?’,” Callan said.

He had said he was not and denied putting his hands in the shopping trolley.

Judge O’Donohoe, in his reserved judgment, said Callan had conceded that in different circumstances he would probably have called general security in the outlet park.

Sign up to our newsletter to receive a regular digest of Fora’s top articles delivered to your inbox.