Sentencing of farmer adjourned again over new claims of jury tampering
Gardaí given six weeks to investigate allegation arising from ‘new material’
Donal Connaughton leaving Tullamore courthouse. Photograph: James Flynn/APX
Gardaí are to carry out a second investigation into an allegation of jury tampering in the trial of a pig farmer.
Donal Connaughton (55), Elfleet, Newtowncashel, Co Longford, was convicted by a jury at Longford Circuit Criminal Court last December of a number of charges relating to an incident at his farm in April 2010.
He 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.
His wife, Margaret (53), was found not guilty of six charges that she had appeared on before the same court.
Connaughton had ordered two repossession men to strip naked and get into a pen with an “agitated” boar. Sentencing was again delayed yesterday.
The trial had heard the men were told to take off their clothes and they would be allowed to 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.
Before yesterday’s sitting of Longford Circuit Court in Tullamore, sentencing had twice been scheduled, but was adjourned as a result of defence applications.
Judge Tony Hunt yesterday gave gardaí six weeks to investigate the allegation arising from “new material” provided by Connaughton.
Judge Hunt, who again put off sentencing, said that the verdict in respect of the convictions and acquittals in the case had been very clear. The jury had taken a very careful approach and there had been “unusually strong information” presented before the jurors brought in their verdicts. He expressed his reservations that “a game” was being played in order to postpone “the evil day”.
He 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 to take place.
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 Assets Security of Dún Laoghaire, 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.
Last February Connaughton 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. However an adjournment was granted to yesterday as a new legal team had just been appointed and needed time to consider the case.
At yesterday’s hearing, defence solicitor Patricia Cronin told the judge that she was making an application which was not being opposed by the prosecution. Donal Keane SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, said that material had been supplied by Connaughton to the DPP in respect of jury- tampering.
While gardaí had carried out an investigation previously into Connaughton’s allegation, it appeared that they had not been provided with full information.