Wednesday, June 12, 2024
Wednesday June 12, 2024
Wednesday June 12, 2024

Couple jailed for dine and dash crimes totalling over £1,000



Bernard and Ann McDonagh sentenced for multiple restaurant frauds in South Wales

Bernard and Ann McDonagh, a married couple from Sandfields in Port Talbot, have been sentenced to prison for a series of dine-and-dash incidents. They ran up unpaid bills totalling over £1,000 at several restaurants across South Wales. The couple visited five different establishments in Swansea, Neath, Port Talbot, and Porthcawl, leaving without paying for expensive meals.

The McDonaghs were caught after restaurant owners shared CCTV footage of their actions. At Swansea Magistrates Court, they both pleaded guilty to five counts of obtaining services dishonestly. Ann McDonagh, aged 39, received a 12-month prison sentence, while her husband Bernard, aged 41, was sentenced to eight months.

Judge Paul Thomas KC stated that, beyond financial gain, the couple appeared to derive a thrill from their actions. He branded Ann McDonagh a “fluent and practised liar,” believing her to be the leading figure in the frauds. The court heard how Ann would often claim her card had declined, promising to retrieve cash but never returning.

In addition to the restaurant frauds, Ann McDonagh faced charges of shoplifting. She admitted to thefts from Tommy Hilfiger and Sainsbury’s at McArthur Glen Bridgend Designer Outlet, and from Tesco Extra in Swansea. Ann also obstructed a police officer at Queen’s Road Police Station in Bridgend. For these offences, she was further sentenced to prison.

The Crown Prosecution Service highlighted the impact of the McDonaghs’ crimes on local businesses. A spokesperson noted that these thefts had financially and emotionally strained family-run restaurants already facing significant challenges. The court ordered the couple to pay compensation covering their unpaid bills within seven days.

David Chapman, executive director for UK Hospitality in Wales, described dining and dashing as a “constant problem” for the hospitality sector. The incidents involving the McDonaghs underscore the persistent challenges restaurants face in combating such fraudulent activities.

The timeline of their dine and dash activities began on August 9, 2023, at the River House in Swansea, where they racked up a bill of £267.60. Ann’s card payment failed, and she did not return after promising to fetch cash. This pattern repeated in subsequent months at other restaurants, with the total unpaid bills amounting to £1,169.20.

In one notable incident, the McDonaghs ordered three-course meals at La Casona in Skewen on February 23, 2024, running up a bill of £276.60. After Ann’s card payment failed, they left, leaving behind a young member of their party who also ran off shortly after.

Despite their attempts to evade payment, the McDonaghs’ fraudulent activities ultimately led to their arrest and imprisonment. Their actions have brought attention to the issue of dining and dashing, prompting calls for stricter measures to protect local businesses from such crimes.


The sentencing of Bernard and Ann McDonagh brings to light several critical issues within the hospitality sector and the broader social and economic context. This case highlights the vulnerabilities of small businesses to fraudulent activities, the psychological motivations behind such crimes, and the legal system’s response.

From a sociological perspective, the thrill-seeking behaviour described by Judge Paul Thomas KC suggests a deeper psychological component to the McDonaghs’ actions. The couple’s repeated offences indicate a pattern of behaviour driven by more than just financial necessity. The concept of “dine and dash” has existed for years, but McDonaghs’ case exemplifies an extreme where the act becomes habitual and almost recreational.

Economically, the impact on small, family-run businesses is significant. Restaurants operate on thin profit margins, and losses from unpaid bills can be devastating. The financial strain imposed by the McDonaghs’ actions could lead to long-term consequences for the affected establishments, including potential job losses and closures. This situation underscores the need for enhanced security measures and possibly legislative support to protect small businesses.

Politically, the case may prompt discussions about law enforcement and judicial responses to petty crimes. While dine-and-dash offences might seem minor compared to other crimes, their cumulative impact on the local economy and community can be substantial. The sentencing of the McDonaghs could serve as a deterrent to others considering similar actions, but it also raises questions about the adequacy of current punitive measures and the potential need for restorative justice approaches.

The McDonaghs case also touches on issues of social responsibility and ethical behaviour. Their actions reflect a disregard for the hard work and livelihoods of those in the hospitality industry. This lack of empathy and accountability is troubling and suggests a broader societal issue regarding respect for service workers and small business owners.

From a local perspective, the case has likely heightened awareness and vigilance among restaurant owners and staff in South Wales. It may lead to increased collaboration and information sharing within the hospitality community to prevent future incidents. The public’s reaction to McDonaghs’ sentencing could also influence local attitudes towards crime and punishment, particularly in relation to non-violent offences.

In terms of gender and minority perspectives, while the article does not provide specific details about the McDonaghs’ background beyond their age and residence, it is essential to consider how different groups may experience and respond to similar situations. For instance, minority-owned businesses might face additional challenges in dealing with fraud due to systemic biases and limited access to resources.

Overall, the McDonaghs’ case serves as a reminder of the complex interplay between individual actions and broader social, economic, and political factors. It calls for a multifaceted approach to addressing dine and dash crimes, including preventive measures, legal reforms, and community support.


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