Saturday 22 October 2016

Man jailed for damaging €10m Claude Monet painting moves to appeal conviction

Ruaidhrí Giblin

Published 18/12/2015 | 17:13

the damage he caused to the Monet painting
the damage he caused to the Monet painting
Art attack: Andrew Shannon is seen on CCTV footage approaching the €10m Monet in the National Gallery
The second clip, above, shows him raising his arm above the perimeter wire
The third clip shows his fist striking the canvass as his body slumps forward
Afterwards, he sits on a bench. He claimed he had a heart condition and felt faint

A MAN jailed for damaging a Claude Monet painting estimated to be worth €10 million has moved to appeal his conviction.

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Andrew Shannon (50), of Willians Way, Ongar had pleaded not guilty to damaging the Claude Monet painting entitled 'Argentuil Basin with a Single Sail Boat (1874)' at the National Gallery of Ireland on Clare Street on June 29, 2012.

Shannon was directed to be found not guilty of damaging two paintings at the Shelbourne Hotel on January 8, 2014 but was found guilty of the National Gallery incident by a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Judge Martin Nolan sentenced him to six years imprisonment with the final 15 months suspended on December 4 2014.

Shannon moved to appeal his conviction today on grounds that the trial judge erred in failing to sever the indictment.

Counsel for Shannon, Michael Bowman SC, said his client was being charged with two separate and distinct instances – the causing of damage to a painting in the National Gallery and subsequently the alleged causing of damage to a painting in the Shelbourne Hotel.

Andrew Shannon
Andrew Shannon

Mr Bowman said the prosecution had not been able to sustain a conviction on the first incident in the National Gallery – a jury failed to reach a verdict - when the second incident in the Shelbourne Hotel allegedly “fell into their lap”.

By facilitating the prosecution to merge and run two trials together, a fair trial became impossible, Mr Bowman submitted.

With the second incident, he said the prosecution now had the missing piece of the puzzle. They were taking the mindset and motive from the first incident to allegedly prove that Shannon had “something against paintings” and “liked to put holes in paintings”, Mr Bowman said.

They thought they could prove the second incident by using the first incident “and vice versa”, Mr Bowman said quoting from transcript.

For technical reasons, he said the DPP weren't allowed to do what they did.

Mr Bowman further submitted that once the trial judge directed the jury to find Shannon not guilty of the Shelbourne Hotel incident, he erred in failing to discharge the jury at that point.

A full blown case was run in front of the jury for three days with 15 witnesses and it was hard to conceive of something as prejudicial, Mr Bowman submitted.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kerida Naidoo SC, said Mr Bowman could not point to any authorities for his proposition that it was impossible to get a fair trial.

Mr Naidoo said the case was opened to the jury on the basis that they were to treat both cases separately and only if they got to a cartain stage could they look to see what they could learn from putting the two cases together.

The jury were ultimately told that Shannon was not guilty of the Shelbourne incident, Mr Naidoo said, and Mr Bowman was suggesting that the jury ignored that direction.

In law, Mr Naidoo said, the starting point was that juries do not ignore directions from judges and honour their oaths.

He said there was an abundance of evidence to establish that what had happened in the National Galley was done deliberatly.

He said two eyewitnesses, from New Zealand, said they saw Shannon punching the painting and expert evidence established the force of the blow.

Shannon had a bag with him with a tin of paint stripper in it and when he fell, as he claimed, he did not drop the bag containing the tin of paint stripper, Mr Naidoo said.

Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would reserve judgment.

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