Farmer fell out with family and community after auction of land
AN ELDERLY farmer has avoided jail after admitting harassing an auctioneer following a successful €605,000 bid for 48 acres of land.
Bachelor farmer Patrick Sherlock (75) was given a suspended sentence, fined and told to have "no contact whatsoever" with the auctioneer unless it is through someone else and for business reasons.
Judge Donagh McDonagh said the case had a "resonance," with other cases and "literary and artistic works involving land and fields".
Sherlock admitted harassment of auctioneer Paddy Watters at his business on Ardee Street, Collon, Co Louth between May 8 and August 9, 2012 and between August 31, 2012 and January 1 this year.
Dundalk Circuit Court heard that prior to the auction in 2008, the Sherlock and Watters families had been friendly.
But as a result of his behaviour, Patrick Sherlock has fallen out with his family and the community in Collon has distanced itself from him.
The court heard that Sherlock, of Kells Road, Collon, had gone to Mr Watters office on a number of occasions and shouted verbal abuse at him.
He accused him of not knowing "how to conduct an auction," called him "a b*****d" and threatened that if he (defendant) met him on the road he would "drive across you and say I never saw you".
He told him "you should have been drowned at birth" and accused him of costing him up to half-a-million euro.
On another occasion, he arrived at the office and Mr Watters' seven-year-old daughter was there.
The court heard that Mr Watter said to him "don't do it in front of the child" and told him to leave, but the defendant replied he would "gut" him and put him out of business.
As a result of his behaviour the district court had previously ordered him to stay away from Mr Watters for 12 months, the judge was also told.
The court heard that the background to the case was that another man had put in a late bid on the land.
Sherlock did not get on well with this man and "made a bid primarily to prevent him from obtaining the land".
Irene Sands, defending, said her instructions were that Sherlock's brother James, who is 73 and who he lives with and cares for, was at one stage the highest bidder at €575,000.
It then transpired in the pub that the other man had put in a bid that was €25,000 higher. The defendant then bid on the land and secured it for €605,000.
But the land was sold at the height of the boom and, said Ms Sands, "is now worth less than half of what he paid for it".
She said her client "in a heated manner placed a higher bid on it (the land) not to be outdone". The land is in his brother's name as the defendant did not have the money for it.
Judge McDonagh said the case stemmed from Mr Sherlock's "desire to stop" the other man from getting the land.
He said the defendant's brother had walked away from the auction and the defendant had "decided he will wade in and bid €605,000 of somebody else's money" and then had a grievance with the system.
He had behaved "in an utterly unacceptable fashion" towards the auctioneer through "protracted harassment" which "verged on physical violence".
He told the defendant: "This behaviour has to stop now" and made an order that there be "no contact whatsoever by Mr Sherlock with Mr Watters at any time into the future".
He imposed a three-year jail term but suspended it for five years on Sherlock entering into a good behaviour bond.
The judge also fined the defendant €3,000.