Retired garda guilty of criminal damage to prehistoric stone circle

Tony Hand likely to have ‘disturbed human remains’ at Carrig, Blessington, court told

Hand told gardaí he had been in the field on the night, 150m away from the ringfort, moving loose stones in a wheelbarrow, the court heard

Hand told gardaí he had been in the field on the night, 150m away from the ringfort, moving loose stones in a wheelbarrow, the court heard

 

Tony (also known as Thomas) Hand (69) had denied interfering with the national monument at Carrig, Blessington by taking stones from the protected site on the night of May 4th, 2011.

Following a week-long trial at Bray Circuit Court, he was convicted of criminal damage to the prehistoric stone circle. It took the jury just over three hours to return a majority guilty verdict of 10-2.

Judge Gerard Griffin remanded Hand on continuing bail for sentencing on Friday, February 20th.

Archaeologist Chris Corlett told the court he visited the site on May 6th, 2011 and noticed obvious disturbances within the burial chamber and that stones had been recently dislodged and moved.

Human remains

Mr Corlett told Paul Murray, prosecuting, that he had visited the 4,000-year-old site more than 20 times in the last decade. He said there was evidence of at least one burial chamber or compartment which would have contained urns of the cremated remains of local people buried thousands of years and their accompanying “grave goods”.

“We could expect to find highly decorated pottery food vessels, amber beads and metal artefacts of very rare and international significance,” said Mr Corlett.

The site is protected under the National Monuments Act.

Four local residents gave evidence that they saw Hand removing stones from the monument on the night in question.

“He wasn’t planting potatoes,” one witness said.

Garda Paul Dowling said he was called to the scene on the night and saw freshly disturbed soil and a large stone in the centre of the mound that had been recently broken into four. Gardaí also saw a track consistent with a wheelbarrow from the monument to a corner of the field, where they found a stone with fresh earth on it.

Hand told gardaí he had been in the field on the night, 150m away from the ringfort, moving loose stones in a wheelbarrow. He said he had not sought ministerial permission to work on the site “because it wasn’t necessary”.

Hand told the gardaí he had bought the land “as a hobby” for the purpose of “planting and nurturing trees”.

Judge Griffin thanked the jury of eight men and four women for their conscientious attention and discharged them from jury duty for five years.