The jury in a trial of a Longford pig farmer and his wife accused of false imprisonment, assault causing harm and threatening to seriously harm will resumed this morning to consider the facts of the case.
Donal and Margaret Connaughton from Elfleet Newtowncashel, County Longford are before Longford Circuit Court to answer the charges stemming from and incident on the 29th of April 2010.
At Wednesday’s hearing, closing arguments were made by the prosecution and the defence in the matter. In closing the barrister for the prosecution Donal Keane said that there were a number of considerations to be assessed by the jury.
Mr Keane said that that the issue of trespass was not a runner as the repossession agents had the necessary documentation. The barrister said that regardless of the circumstances of the visit by Justin Tighe and Patrick Mulvey, the defendants were not entitled to deal with the two men in the manner that they did.
He said that the Connaughtons were not allowed to threaten, assault and prevent the men from leaving the farm. Mr Keane said: “When someone comes on your property you are not allowed to do that.”
Counsel for the prosecution said that the witnesses did not put Mr Connaughton to the ground and that Mr Connaughton’s evidence that Mr Mulvey was “hell bent on taking the generator” was contradicted by the facts.
The barrister said that Mr Connaughton had decided that “he was going to teach those boys a lesson”.
Mr Keane said that the evidence relating to the boar was utterly bizarre and that it shows the thought process of Mr Connaughton. He said that the repossession agents were told that they were lucky to be alive and that when Mr Connaughton’s threat to rip their head off and eat it may not sound serious it was an indication of the mindset of the defendant.
Mr Keane pointed out that Mr Connaughton admitted that he removed the boar for the purpose of intimidating the two men and that there were a lot of admissions by Mr Connaughton both in his evidence and in his interviews with the Gardaí.
He said that each of the charges before the jury should be viewed as a separate trial, but that they should note that Mrs Connaughton had been involved in the matter as a joint enterprise. Counsel for the prosecution said that Mr Tighe’s observation that the Connaughton’s can’t get away with this kind of behaviour and that justice should be done should be noted by the jury.
Counsel for Donal Connaughton, Mr Paul Green, asked the jury to consider a number of facts with respect to his client. He said that the repossession agents had arrived unannounced at the Connaughton’s farm. He said that the truck had “pitched up” without being appraised of the need for hygiene.
Mr Greene said that Mr Connaughton’s reaction to the injury of his wife was key to the events that were recorded and said that the jury should also consider that his client was under considerable financial pressure as a result of the persistent calls from GE Money.
The barrister said that at the time of the visit Mr Connaughton believed that he had established an arrangement with the lender with regard to the asset. Mr Greene said that the defendant was €700 in arrears on a piece of machinery that sustain quarter of his livestock and that threat of its removal impacted on his entire business.
Counsel said that the ignominy of being knocked down on his own land had hurt the accused and that he had acknowledged in his evidence that he felt vengeful as a result.
Barrister acting for Mrs Connaughton, Mr Padraig Dwyer said that his client was a woman of good character who had never been in trouble before. He said that the fact that she finds herself accused of serious crime is very distressing for the defendant.
Mr Dwyer asked the jury to take note of the the circumstances of Mrs Connaughton’s arrest. He said that although the Gardaí had originally come to the farm to take a statement, they never came back after Donal Connaughton had been hostile to them.
Counsel said that when the accused had shown up at Roscommon Garda Station for her son, she was arrested and then submitted to questioning on a voluntary basis. Mr Dwyer said that the evidence against his client was razor thin.
He requested that the jury take serious consideration of the matter as Mrs Connaughton will have to live with their verdict. Mr Dwyer said that his client was clear and candid about what happened and noted that she did not appear on the recording and that in evidence the witnesses said that they did not know when she left the farm. Mr Dwyer concluded by saying that Mrs Connaughton deserves to be found not guilty.
Judge Anthony Hunt commenced by outlining the roles of the jury. The judge told the jury that there were three central considerations; the presumption of innocence, the burden of proof and the standard of proof. He then explained each to the jury.
He said that the an assessment of the credibility and reliability of the witnesses was entirely up to the jury. He asked them to put aside their views on personalties and take a cold, dispassionate view and consider that the consequences of a conviction are catastrophic.
Judge Hunt said that the jury must consider the nature of the charges and explained in detail the aspects of the law to be considered. He said that there were obvious areas of conflict and that the jury must decide which is the most credible.