A pig farmer who was jailed for 12 months for ordering two repossession men to strip naked and get into a pen with an agitated boar has been granted bail pending an appeal against his conviction.
Last month, Donal Connaughton, (55), with an address at Newtowncashel, Co Longford, was sentenced to 12 months in prison by Judge Tony Hunt at Longford Circuit Criminal Court.
Connaughton had been found guilty by a jury in December 2012 of two counts of false imprisonment, two charges of threatening to cause serious harm, one count of assault, and two of criminal damage at JAC Pigs Ltd in Longford on Apr 29, 2010. He was found not guilty on another charge of assault.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman this afternoon said the Court of Criminal Appeal was influenced by the fact that Connaughton’s sentence would “undoubtedly expire” before the hearing of his appeal.
Counsel for Connaughton, Mr Ronan Munro BL, had argued that bail should be granted as there was a strong chance of success for the appeal, which would be moved on the grounds that the jury may have been influenced during the trial.
He said this centred on allegations by Connaughton that during the currency of the trial a named person contacted him and told him he had “a man on the jury”, and there were sums of money involved.
Counsel said that Connaughton alleged that he was in possession of a recording of the telephone conversation he had with the named person.
Mr Munroe told the court that gardai had investigated the allegations and a file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but no prosecution was directed.
Lawyers for the State argued that if Mr Connaughton was correct about what had occurred, this meant he was complicit in actions and the matter was not new to him, but no complaint had been made about the alleged incident during the trial.
The court heard that gardai had investigated the matter and were satisfied that nothing untoward went on.
Mr Justice Hardiman said it was “increasingly the case” that applications for bail that would have been “unstatable” in the past were coming up and being granted on the basis that the sentences involved would expire before the appeals could be heard.
Mr Hardiman said that allegations of the most convoluted kind were being made by Mr Connaughton, but these “very serious” allegations were not yet contradicted in so far as they could be.
He said the court was minded to admit Mr Connaughton to bail, but was in no way passing comment on the credibility on the allegations. However, Mr Justice Hardiman said that if the allegations were verifiable, Mr Connaughton would certainly have a strong basis for appeal.
He said that bail would be granted on the same terms and conditions imposed on Mr Connaughton before the trial.
The two employees of Dublin-based repossession company Assets Security, Patrick Mulvey and Justin Tighe, gave evidence at the trial that they feared for their lives after the entered the farm to repossess items on behalf of GE Money.
There was evidence that Donal Connaughton had ordered the men to strip and get into the pen with the agitated boar and they feared they were going to be violated by the animal.
On an audio recording made by one of the men on his phone during their ordeal, the pair were heard pleading to be let go and promised Connaughton they would never return to the premises, but he said he wanted to “teach them a lesson”.
The two men were told they would be allowed walk out of the yard if they stripped naked. When the men refused, Connaughton ordered them to get down on their knees and recite the ‘Our Father’ prayer before they were released.
The court heard the two men went to the farm to repossess a generator and two power-washers.