Longford man cleared of theft due to 'lack of evidence'

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Longford Courthouse.

Longford Courthouse

A man who appeared at last week’s sitting of Longford District Court charged under the Theft & Fraud Offences Act had the case against him dismissed following a hearing into the matter.

John Paul Conway, Longford appeared before Judge Marie Keane charged with trespass at Apple Green restaurant, Main Street, Longford on April 29, 2017.

He was also further charged with burglary at Apple Green on May 10, 2017; burglary at Tally-weijl, Main Street, Longford on April 29, 2017 and stealing €115 from a car at Grian Ard, Longford on February 19 last.

Outlining the evidence to the court, Inspector Bláthín Moran said that the case centered around numerous offences that took place in Longford town over a number of months earlier this year.

The Inspector also pointed out that CCTV footage in respect of some of the matters was available to the court.

In his direct evidence to the court, Garda Sheil said that on April 29 last, a burglary took place at the Tally-weijl clothing store which is situated along Longford town’s main street.

He said that he secured CCTV footage from the premises and was viewing it when he became aware that another burglary had taken place at a local restaurant.

“I also viewed CCTV from that incident,” added Garda Sheil, before pointing out the owners of both establishments had also provided statements to the Gardaí.

The court was also told that those who provided the statements were not in a position to provide that evidence to the court.

The court then went on to hear what had been taken during the burglaries.

“In relation to Tally-weijl, the culprits gained access to the premises by climbing up onto the roof,” the local garda continued.

“They turned the CCTV camera in the opposite direction and then entered the clothes store.

“There they proceeded to take the hard drive from the CCTV set-up inside the store and took €200 from the till.

“There was also €200 worth of damage caused where the culprits gained entry.”

The court was then told about what happened to the adjoining building earlier when the culprits were accessing the Tally-weijl building.

“The building next door is a restaurant and they gained access to that by damaging the back door.

“Once they entered the building, the alarm went off, so they ran off.

“Nothing was taken during that incident.”

Garda Sheil then went on to say that he arrested the defendant on May 11, 2017 for questioning.
The Garda told the court that after viewing the CCTV footage, he recognised Mr Conway and was therefore in a position to arrest him in relation to the burglaries.

“He was interviewed and made certain admissions during the interview,” Garda Sheil added.
Meanwhile, the court went on to hear that the defendant was also shown the CCTV footage when he was being questioned, but he made no comment in respect of that.

The court then heard that the defendant was released and subsequently charged in relation to both burglaries on June 9, last.

Garda Sheil also told the court that he knew Mr Conway well and easily identified him from the CCTV footage.

Defence solicitor, John Quinn then put it to Garda Sheil that the CCTV footage he was relying on “was not very clear”.

“And in fairness,” Mr Quinn continued, “the faces of the culprits are covered”.

Meanwhile, Garda Sheil said that the culprits used hoods over their heads and while the tops of the defendants’ heads were covered it was still possible to recognise their facial features, which he added, “ is very clear”.

The court was also told, at that point, that the defendant had 67 previous convictions.
Mr Quinn then put it to Judge Keane that the State’s case against his client was “insufficient” particular in relation to the allegation of criminal damage.

“There is no statement from the owner and no evidence of anything being taken so all of this is just hearsay from the Garda,” said Mr Quinn.

“I would respectfully submit that the State’s case is deficient.

“The CCTV footage is very poor and cannot be relied upon.”

Garda Sheil then addressed the court in relation to the matter.

He said that he had taken statements from the injured parties on the day, but Mr Quinn interjected and said that because those statements had not been submitted in evidence, the Garda was producing hearsay evidence to the court.

“This is just not acceptable,” added Mr Quinn.

“The State’s case is deficient; there simply is no evidence against my client.

During her deliberations on the matter Judge Keane said that while she was satisfied, after viewing the CCTV in the case herself, that the footage did clarify who the gentleman involved was, the evidence against Mr Conway was weak.

She also said there was no independent evidence in respect of any criminal damage available to the court, so she was therefore dismissing that particular charge.

Before concluding, the Judge struck all the charges against the defendant out citing the lack of evidence in the State’s case as the reason for her decision.