Farmer who 'interfered in land sale' taken into custody on orders of judge
A farmer alleged to have been involved in a campaign of intimidation and interference with the work of a Revenue-appointed receiver has been taken into custody on the orders of the President of the High Court.
Seamus Kane, of Ardnagullion, Granard, Co Longford, admitted breaching an undertaking not to go onto farmland which is being sold by receiver Myles Kirby.
He was taken into custody today and will spend the next week in Mountjoy following a contempt of court application by the receiver.
It is the second time he had been sent to prison by Mr Justice Peter Kelly over interference with the receiver’s work.
In committing him to custody, the judge also said he had “some misgivings” about a medical certificate submitted to the court by Seamus Kane as it contained a number of misspellings and it appeared the doctor’s stamp was a photocopy.
The judge said he would defer making a final decision on the contempt application until he hears evidence from the doctor involved next week.
Mr Kirby is attempting to sell the property at Willsbrook, Co Longford and others owned by Seamus Kane’s brother, car dealer John Alex Kane, in a bid to recoup some of a €4.97m judgment.
Revenue obtained the judgment against John Alex Kane over unpaid taxes relating to car sales in 2009. A separate contempt of court application in respect of the car dealer was today adjourned for a week.
The court has heard claims a campaign of intimidation and interference against the work of the receiver has been directed by John Alex Kane and that his brother Seamus assisted in this. The claims have been denied.
The application against Seamus Kane arose after he was found to have entered the Willsbrook property and topped the grass there with farm machinery on April 19.
He had previously given undertakings to the court not to interfere with the property after being jailed for contempt.
The court previously heard he had erected signs at one of the property’s being sold by the receiver, warning trespassers would be hanged, and laminated the judge’s orders, writing the word “void” on them, and posting them to several people including the judge.
Mr Kirby alleged the latest incursion was a crude attempt to demonstrate to locals and prospective purchasers that the lands were still under the control of the Kane family.
Mr Justice Kelly ordered Seamus Kane’s arrest when he failed to turn up in court last week. Gardaí were unable to arrest him. However, he appeared “voluntarily” today.
Under questioning, Seamus Kane told the court he was “totally wrong” to enter the property. He said he was topping his own field nearby and then went on to the Willsbrook property as he was not happy with the state it was in.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said.
“I wasn’t thinking about what I was at.”
He denied breaking heavy locks on the gates, insisting they were open.
Apologising to the court, he said: "I have love for the land. I felt in my bones it [the topping] needed to be done. When the guards came, I realised I shouldn’t be there.”
Seamus Kane told the judge that “jail was not the place” for him, that he had a mortgage to pay and that if the judge didn’t jail him he would not be before the court again.
Mr Justice Kelly asked him about a medical certificate he had submitted to the court. It contained a number of misspellings, including one of the word “alcoholism”.
The court had previously heard from a solicitor for Seamus Kane that he had problems with alcohol.
“You would expect a medical practitioner to be able to spell alcoholism,” the judge said.
Seamus Kane said his doctor was “an aged man” and he knew the certificate, which he said he obtained on Monday, “doesn’t look great”.
“It certainly doesn’t look great. It looks like a photocopy apart from the script,” Mr Justice Kelly said.
“Are you sure you saw this doctor on Monday?”
Seamus Kane replied: “I swear I did.”
Mr Justice Kelly said: “You are familiar with old saying: ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me’.”
Seamus Kane insisted he was telling the truth and said that if he ended up back before the court again, the judge could “lock me away forever”.
His solicitor Brid Mimnagh told Mr Justice Kelly she believed her client was “extremely contrite”.
However, Garry McCarthy SC, for the receiver, told the judge that what had been said by Seamus Kane was “all very familiar”.
Mr Justice Kelly said he jailed Seamus Kane for contempt last November for breaching injunctions and that the farmer had to make three attempts to purge his contempt before he could be set free.
"He can have been in no doubt any failure to comply with those undertakings would have serious consequences for him,” the judge said.
Mr Justice Kelly said the incursion onto the land might not appear on first sight to be a very serious matter.
But he said this was not a chance occurrence and Seamus Kane went onto the property with heavy machinery.
The judge said the incursion also had to be seen in the light of a campaign of during which prospective buyers had been intimidated.
He said it was “a flagrant breach” of orders made by the court and undertakings given by Seamus Kane.
He also said the medical certificate was “a curious document” because of the misspellings and the format of the letter, with the rubber stamp appearing to be photocopied.
“I have some misgivings about the authenticity of the document,” he said.
Mr Justice Kelly said he wanted to get further information about the medical certificate and ordered that the doctor appear in court next week.
He directed that Seamus Kane be committed to the Bridewell Garda Station and onwards to Mountjoy, before being brought back before the court in a week’s time.
Mr Justice Kelly said he would defer making a final decision on the contempt application until then.
He agreed to a request from Ms Mimnagh that Seamus Kane be medically examined while in custody.
Meanwhile, a contempt application against John Alex Kane was adjourned for a week.
He previously gave an undertaking to file tax returns within a 28-day period.
Mr Justice Kelly said the evidence before the court was that he had not met those obligations.
However, John Alex Kane insisted he had filed returns and had been assisted in doing so by “an accountant from Mohill”.
Asked by the judge who the accountant was, he was unable to remember the man’s name. “It won’t come to me at the moment,” he said.
Mr Justice Kelly adjourned the hearing for a week so that the receiver’s legal team can file an affidavit on the tax issues.