Two men who appeared before Longford District Court last week have narrowly avoided a prison sentence.
John Stokes, 33 Spring Lawn, Longford, and Christopher Stokes of 10 Ard Aoibheann, Longford, were charged with dumping offences, which were committed via a false waste removal business, which was set up on Facebook.
Solicitor for the defence, Bríd Mimnagh, explained that there was a plea in regard to the charges of John Stokes, but that Christopher Stokes was only involved on two occasions and his father would be taking responsibility.
A Waste Enforcement Officer with Longford County Council gave evidence last Tuesday morning following a lengthy investigation into a Facebook business entitled JC Rubbish Removal.
“We received the initial complaint of the dumping and burning of waste at a house occupied by a Mr Gibson,” said the Waste Enforcement Officer.
“CCTV was installed and on May 11, 2019, footage was captured. A black Ford Focus owned by Christopher Stokes was identified and John Stokes and another male were seen dumping waste. They were identified by a sergeant. A few days later, he did it again.”
On June 13, 2019, while carrying out an investigation, at a derelict house evidence was found of waste belonging to six different people who gave statements that they gave their rubbish to JC Rubbish Removal.
A lady from Gleann Riada gave a statement on June 14, 2019, explaining that JC Rubbish Removal took waste from her house and charged her €60. A receipt was issued.
“On August 2, 2019, a named Lanesboro witness gave a statement she had contacted JC Rubbish Removal,” said the Waste Enforcement Officer.
“John and another man came to her house and took waste from her home for €400. They didn’t issue a receipt. The rubbish was dumped on the Athlone Road.
“On August 14, 2019, a named witness from Longford gave a statement that they contacted JC Rubbish Removal. Two men charged €220 and issued no receipt.
“On August 19, 2019, a lady on Battery Road contacted them via Facebook to remove rubbish.”
There was also a large amount of rubbish dumped on the grounds of a property in Lisnanagh, where burning of rubbish was also taking place. The occupant of the house was given a five month jail sentence for what Judge Seamus Hughes at the time described as “one of the worst” dumping cases he had ever seen.
The Waste Enforcemant Officer explained to the court that there were considerable clean-up costs involved, as well as legal costs of €2,700.
“The cost of the cleanup at the derelict house on the Athlone Road has been €2,000. The property in Lisnanagh has not been cleaned up yet but it is estimated it will cost €5,000,” she said.
Judge Hughes, having perused a booklet of evidence provided to him, noted the severity of the case and of dumping in general in the county.
“I compliment Longford County Council but you do need to be vigilant in this county. I notice when I’m driving to Longford that there is a greater incidence of refuse in this county,” he said.
After lunch, Ms Mimnagh addressed the court in defence of her two clients, stating that JC Rubbish Removal was owned by a John Cody.
“In regards to John and Christopher Stokes, I acknowledge firstly that Christopher was with him on two occasions and dumped his own rubbish,” she said.
“In relation to the other matters, his father takes full responsibility. Regarding the rubbish at Lisnanagh, all of that rubbish did not come from John Stokes.
“He’s also saying that he was not responsible for all the rubbish on the Athlone Road derelict site.
“He admits he was wrong and he stopped dealing with it when the council contacted him. He says it was another party who put it on Facebook and he can’t take it down. He’s illiterate,” she added.
“I don’t care who put it up. He was working hand in fist with whoever did. Mr Cody, in my mind, is a fictitious person and Mr Stokes was solely responsible. He created a trading name,” Judge Hughes shot back.
Ms Mimnagh explained that she had put that to her client and he took full responsibility but said the Facebook page is still active.
“He tells me he has used Mulleady’s and he has receipts. He apologises and realises he’s at the mercy of the court. He’s on a disability payment for a number of years. He realises he’ll have to put his hand in his pocket for a long period of time,” said Ms Mimnagh.
Turning back to the Waste Enforcement Officer, Judge Hughes asked, “How does this relate to other cases?”
“This is a serious case. There’s a lot of dumping going on. It’s one of the worst cases the council has come across,” she replied.
“I need to do what’s right for the council and the community who want to protect the environment. This is an imprisonment offence,” said Judge Hughes.
“For Christopher Stokes - four months. Other charges taken into consideration. For John Stokes, seven months for the incident on May 11, 2019. Seven months outstanding on the other summonses. I could’ve given him two years,” he added, fixing bail at €2,000 each.
Later in the afternoon, however, and following a plea from Ms Mimnagh, both were released after €500 was provided for each by way of bail.