A pig farmer who ordered two repossession men to strip naked and get into a pen with an ‘agitated’ boar was jailed today.
Donal Connaughton (55), from Elfeet, Newtowncashel, Co Longford, was sentenced to 12 months in prison at Longford Circuit Court sitting in Tullamore today.
At the conclusion of his trial in December of last year, the farmer was found guilty of two counts of false imprisonment, two charges of threatening to cause serious harm, one count of assault and two of criminal damage.
He was found not guilty on another charge of assault by the jury of seven men and five women at Longford Circuit Court.
Patrick Mulvey and Justin Tighe, employees of repossession company, Assets Security of Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, had earlier told the court that they feared for their lives after going to JAC Pigs Ltd in Co Longford on April 29, 2010 to repossess items on behalf of GE Money.
A scuffle had taken place in the yard at the pig farm during which Mr Mulvey and Mr Tighe said they were assaulted.
They had told the court in evidence that Donal 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 be heard on an audio recording made by one of the men on his phone during their ordeal.
The two men were heard pleading to be let go and promised Donal Connaughton that they would never return to the premises, but he said he wanted to "teach them a lesson".
The two men were told to strip naked and they would be allowed walk out of the yard and when they refused Donal Connaughton made them get down on their knees and say the 'Our Father' before they were let go, leaving their truck behind.
The two repo men had arrived at the farm to repossess a generator and two power-washers.
Sentencing was adjourned on a number of occasions earlier this year after the farmer claimed he had evidence of jury misconduct. Two separate garda investigations into his claims came to nothing, the court heard.
At today's sentencing hearing, Donal Connaughton’s solicitor Patricia Cronin read a statement from her client in which he said he had worked hard and long hours with honesty and dedication.
But the period leading up to 2010 had been particularly difficult. “I was feeling the heat”, he said, in a reference to trying to deal with “3,000 fat pigs”.
He admitted he had become angry and that things had gone too far. He didn’t attempt to justify the extent of his behaviour and he wanted to apologise.
Judge Hunt described his dealings with the two repossession men as “a disastrous over-reaction”. The repossession men were clearly frightened and wanted to leave. They even asked Donal Connaughton to call the gardai and have them arrested for trespass.
But he had told them to strip and that he had “a good, wicked boar here”. He would then see how manly “these jackeens are”.
Mr Connaughton had vented his spleen and ire on the men and while he took no satisfaction in sending a man of his age to prison, he imposed concurrent sentences of 12 months on each of the charges on which he was found guilty.
The judge also noted that the repossession men were, in his view, placed in a very difficult position by the financial institution on whose behalf they were acting.
It was “extremely incorrect and improper” to send them to see if they could get “a few quid” from the farmer. The judge said that perhaps their principals had questions to answer.