Jim Mansfield jnr found guilty of perverting the course of justice

Businessman (54) acquitted of conspiracy to falsely imprison man who provided security for family business

Jim Mansfield jnr, arriving at the Special Criminal Court, Parkgate Street, Dublin, on Monday. Photograph: Collins Courts

Jim Mansfield jnr, arriving at the Special Criminal Court, Parkgate Street, Dublin, on Monday. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

Businessman Jim Mansfield jnr has been taken into custody after he was found guilty of perverting the course of justice by ordering the destruction of CCTV footage showing him with his former employee Martin Byrne on the morning that Mr Byrne was kidnapped by Dessie O’Hare and Declan ‘Whacker’ Duffy.

The 54-year-old was acquitted by the Special Criminal Court of a separate charge of conspiracy to falsely imprison Mr Byrne, who had previously provided security for the family business. The court found that although Mansfield had knowingly involved O’Hare and Duffy in his attempts to recover assets lost in the 2008 economic crash, there was insufficient evidence to show Mansfield knew the two men planned to kidnap Mr Byrne.

Delivering the verdict of the three-judge, non-jury court on Monday, Mr Justice Alex Owens said that Mansfield lied to gardaí when he said he did not arrange the meeting with O’Hare and Duffy which ended with Mr Byrne being kidnapped. But he added that the court cannot exclude the possibility that Mansfield was misled by O’Hare as to the purpose of the meeting.

He added that the court “has no way of knowing how much knowledge he had of the forces he would unleash by involving” O’Hare and Duffy, whom Mr Justice Owens described as “very dangerous players”.

O’Hare was jailed for seven years in 2019 for falsely imprisoning Mr Byrne. Duffy was jailed for six years in 2018 for the same offence.

A sentencing hearing for Mansfield will be held on February 7th next.

Mr Justice Owens said that CCTV footage from Finnstown House Hotel in west Dublin on June 9th, 2015, showed Mansfield with Mr Byrne before the two men travelled together to Keating Park where Mr Byrne was kidnapped by Duffy and O’Hare.

Mr Justice Owens said Mansfield told Patrick Byrne, Martin Byrne’s brother, to destroy the footage because he knew Mr Byrne had been kidnapped by people with whom Mansfield was directly involved. The footage, Mr Justice Owens said, showed Mansfield “had a role in putting Martin Byrne in harm’s way”.

Mansfield jnr of Tasaggart House, Garters Lane, Saggart, Co Dublin, pleaded not guilty to conspiring with one or more persons to falsely imprison Martin Byrne on a date unknown between January 1st, 2015 and June 30th, 2015. He was found not guilty on that count.

He also denied attempting to pervert the course of justice by directing Patrick Byrne to destroy recorded CCTV footage, with the alleged intention of perverting the course of public justice in relation to the false imprisonment of Martin Byrne (53) at Finnstown House Hotel, Newcastle Road, Lucan, Co Dublin, between June 9th, 2015 and June 12th, 2015. He was convicted on that count.

Following the verdicts the defendant’s barrister Bernard Condon SC asked for his client to be allowed to remain on bail. The court refused and remanded him in custody. Mansfield jnr, dressed in a navy suit, white shirt and navy spotted tie, was briefly surrounded by his family before being led away by prison officers.

Going over the evidence that the court accepted, Mr Justice Owens said that on June 9th, 2015, at an office at Keating Park belonging to Mansfield, a criminal gang led by O’Hare and Duffy kidnapped Martin Byrne. Mr Byrne had been asked to attend the meeting by Mansfield and believed that it would be attended only by himself, Mansfield and O’Hare. When Mr Byrne arrived Duffy was there and then several other men arrived. In front of Mansfield, the men searched Mr Byrne’s pockets. When Mr Byrne confronted his boss, telling him he had set him up, Mansfield did not respond. The men then forced Mr Byrne into a car and took him to his home at The Towers, a property owned by Mansfield and adjoining a house used by Mansfield known as Tassagart House. Mr Byrne had been living at The Towers rent-free for some time and was an employee of Mansfield and another named man. Mr Byrne was twice punched in the face during the drive to the Towers.

Having gained access to The Towers, some of the kidnappers assaulted a security guard who had refused to open the gate and then warned Mr Byrne that he was next. He was again struck on the face and held inside his home until gardaí, who had no idea what was going on, arrived in an unmarked car. The kidnappers cleaned blood off Mr Byrne’s face with a towel and told him to get rid of the gardaí or he would get “a bullet in the head”. Mr Byrne went outside and told gardaí that O’Hare was in the house and that he might be armed.

Most of the gang, including Duffy and O’Hare escaped through the back of the house. Some days later Mansfield spoke to Patrick Byrne, a brother of Martin who was employed to look after CCTV at Finnstown House. The court accepted that Mansfield told Patrick Byrne to destroy CCTV footage showing Mansfield meeting Martin Byrne on the morning of the kidnapping. The footage also showed the two men leaving together.

The judge said Mansfield wanted to destroy the record of the footage because it “connected him to the events on that date” and because he “wanted to distance himself from the activities of the gang”.

However, the court found that the evidence was “insufficient to establish that he deliberately lured Martin Byrne” to be kidnapped and with a view to forcibly removing him from his home.

Mr Justice Owens said the court could not exclude the possibility that O’Hare misled Mansfield or that Mansfield was not privy to the plan between O’Hare and Duffy to kidnap Mr Byrne. He said there was “possible animus” between Mr Byrne and the two criminals following a meeting earlier the same year that had ended badly.

Mr Justice Owens said that the fact Mansfield did not contact his former employee following the kidnap was “shoddy and selfish” but provided only weak support for the prosecution’s claim that it showed he was aware in advance that Mr Byrne would be kidnapped.

The court found that Mansfield was not telling the truth when he claimed to have had only limited interactions with Duffy and O’Hare. He said that Mansfield was aware that the Mansfield business had used the New IRA and INLA to deal with threats from Traveller gangs who claimed the Mansfields owed them money. The court also found that Mansfield was involved with Duffy and O’Hare in his efforts to recover assets lost during the crash. Mr Justice Owens said he was satisfied that the activities of the New IRA and INLA “were not taking place without Mr Mansfield’s knowledge and approval”.

Mr Justice Owens said the involvement of “dangerous players” such as O’Hare and Duffy meant it was unlikely Mansfield would give an honest account to gardaí, but any lies he told were not sufficient to establish that he was guilty of involvement in a plot to kidnap Mr Byrne.

Terrorist groups became involved in the Mansfield business, the court said, when efforts were being made to recover properties once owned by the Mansfields in Citywest in Dublin. The Mansfields had lost the Citywest Hotel following the crash but intended to recover neighbouring properties, including an area known as Paddy Reilly’s field, to gain leverage in getting back the hotel.

The court noted that Martin Byrne had said that he was present at a meeting in May 2015 attended by Mansfield, O’Hare and Duffy in which Duffy said that they were there to get back properties for Jim Mansfield jnr.

The court further accepted Martin Byrne’s evidence that he warned Mansfield about the dangers of getting involved with these men and that Mansfield replied that he “didn’t care and was going to get back what was his”.