An embrace for family after verdict announced
Paul Begley’s family were the first to arrive in the small, wood-panelled courtroom in the Four Courts yesterday to hear the outcome of his appeal against a six-year sentence for evading import tax on garlic.
His wife Diane, son Michael and brother Greg joined more than a dozen friends and family who squeezed into the courtroom’s pew-like seats.
Although well outnumbered by supporters, reporters made up a strong contingent, reflecting the interest in the case that resulted in Begley being sentenced to six years last March for evading €1.6 million in tax.
Although the Court of Criminal Appeal was due to sit at 10.15am the allotted time came and went with no sign of Begley, who had been brought to the new Criminal Courts of Justice complex far down the quays rather than the Four Courts building.
In his absence, his legal representative asked that the judgment be delayed until the afternoon.
At about 2pm the court reconvened with Begley present. Begley appeared relaxed, smiling and acknowledging friends and family and talking to the Garda escorts accompanying him.
But as presiding judge Mr Justice Liam McKechnie delivered the judgment, Begley’s focus shifted to the bench, as he listened intently to every word.
There was palpable relief in the courtroom as Mr Justice McKechnie said “it was not open to the trial judge, as a matter of law to impose the sentence which he did”.
Begley displayed his relief only after the judgment had been delivered, smiling and embracing family members.
He was then returned to the training unit at Mountjoy Prison and will remain there until the court reconvenes to specify an “appropriate sentence” in February.