Wednesday 13 December 2017

Gardai probe new jury tampering allegation in trial of man accused of forcing repo-men into boar pen

Donal Connaughton
Donal Connaughton

Brian McDonald

GARDAI will carry out a second investigation into an allegation of jury tampering in the trial of a man accused of ordering two repossession men to strip and get into a pen with a boar.

Circuit Court Judge Tony Hunt today gave gardai six weeks to investigate the allegation arising from “new material” provided by convicted pig farmer Donal Connaughton.

Connaughton (55) was convicted by a jury last December of a number of charges relating to an incident at his farm in April, 2010 during which he ordered two repossession men to strip naked and get into a pen with an “agitated” boar.

The farmer, from Elfleet, Newtowncashel, Co Longford was found guilty of two counts of false imprisonment, two charges of threatening to cause serious harm, one count of assault and one count of criminal damage.

He was found not guilty of one charge of assault by the jury at Longford Circuit Criminal Court. His wife, Margaret (53) was found not guilty of all six charges that she appeared on before the same court.

During the trial the jury listened to a 22-minute audio which had been recorded by one of the repossession men on his phone at the Connaughton farm.

Patrick Mulvey and Justin Tighe, employees of repossession company, Assets Security of Dun Laoire, told the court that they had feared for their lives after going to the farm in Co Longford to repossess items on behalf of GE Money.

They gave evidence that Connaughton had ordered them to strip and get into the pen with the agitated boar and they feared they were going to be violated by the animal. The animal could also be heard on the audio recording.

Both men were heard pleading to be let go and promised Connaughton that they would never return to the property. But he said he wanted “to teach them a lesson”.

The men were told to strip naked and they would be allowed walk out of the yard, but when they refused, Connaughton had got them to go down on their knees and say the “Our Father” before they were let go.

Their truck was left behind.

They had initially arrived at the farm to repossess a generator and two power washers.

Prior to yesterday’s sitting of Longford Circuit Court sitting in Tullamore, sentencing had twice been scheduled, but was adjourned as a result of defence applications.

Last February, Connaughton had sought to have a mistrial declared because of “evidence” he had in relation to jury misconduct. The matter was adjourned to June and on that occasion the prosecution told Judge Hunt that nothing had arisen from the garda investigation.

But an adjournment was granted to yesterday as a new legal team had just been appointed and needed time to consider the case.

Defence solicitor, Patricia Cronin told Judge Hunt that she was making an application which was not being opposed by the prosecution.

Donal Keane SC, appearing for the Director of Public Prosecutions, said that material had been supplied by Donal Connaughton to the DPP in respect of jury tampering.

Judge Hunt said he was also wondering about the drip-feed of information at strategic times. He needed to know if Connaughton had the information all along or was it something new. Ms Cronin said she had no instructions in that regard.

The judge expressed his reservations that “a game” was being played in order to postpone “the evil day”.

Judge Hunt added: “I’m getting very fatigued with the sight of this case. This is the last look”. The case was adjourned for six weeks to allow the garda investigation take place.

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