A garda superintendent has rejected a suggestion from defence counsel that a “failure by gardaí to intervene in a timely and proper manner” were among the causes of events which occurred following the repossession of a property in Strokestown over five years ago.
The trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court has heard that at around 5am on December 16th, 2018, a group of approximately 30 armed men, some wearing balaclavas, arrived at a repossessed rural property at Falsk, just outside Strokestown and attacked four of the security guards present.
Patrick Sweeney (44) of High Cairn, Ramelton, Co Donegal; Martin O'Toole (58) of Stripe, Irishtown, Claremorris, Co Mayo; Paul Beirne (56) of Croghan, Boyle, Co Roscommon and David Lawlor (43) of Bailis Downs, Navan, have pleaded not guilty to 17 charges each at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
Each man is separately charged with false imprisonment of and assault causing harm to four security personnel at Falsk on December 16, 2018. Each defendant is also charged with aggravated burglary, as well as four charges of arson concerning a car and three vans allegedly set alight.
The four men are also each charged with criminal damage to a door of the house, violent disorder, robbery of a wristwatch from security guard John Graham and, finally, causing unnecessary suffering to an animal by causing or permitting an animal to be struck on the head.
Superintendent Seamus Boyle said he couldn't answer when Andrew Sexton SC, on behalf of Mr Bierne, put to him that he knew in advance of December 11th, 2018, that the Roscommon county registrar would send a representative to attend the repossession of the property on December 11th, 2018. He said he was not at the rural property on December 11th, 2018, but could have been at the Tulsk Garda Station.
Supt Boyle said he did not vet individuals employed by Aidan Devlin of Trinity Asset Management Services. He told the court that he did not check that messengers were properly warranted. The superintendent told Mr Sexton that the role of An Garda Siochana was limited to ensuring there was no breach of the peace.
Supt Boyle said he didn't know workers from Northern Ireland were going to be deployed during the repossession. The superintendent confirmed he forwarded an email he'd received from Mr Devlin on December 16th, 2018, to the incident room coordinator but couldn't say what was attached.
Supt Boyle confirmed to Séan D Rafter BL, defending Mr O'Toole, that he was the highest-ranking officer involved in this matter.
Mr Rafter put it to Supt Boyle that the preparation of a policing plan prior to December 11th suggested gardai had a greater level of involvement than suggested by his evidence. Supt Boyle rejected this, adding that policing plans, a type of risk assessment, are prepared for a variety of events in the district. He said the policing plan dealt to a “small extent” with people involved in the repossession based on information received.
Mr Rafter suggested to Supt Boyle that he had “detailed knowledge” about events that were planned for December 11th. He said he was aware an order was going to be executed.
Supt Boyle confirmed garda cars were present on the road and added there was no formal road closure, and no one was prevented from entering the area. He said he called to the property and spoke to a security man on a date between December 11th and December 16th, 2018.
Bodycam footage dated December 15th, 2018, was played to the jury showing the superintendent at the property.
Supt Boyle told Mr Rafter that in his role as district manager, he took “an interest in all policing matters in my district”.
He confirmed that a breach of the peace occurred following the repossession of the property on December 11th, 2018. Supt Boyle said the matter had been investigated and dealt with by the courts. He told Tony McGillicuddy SC, prosecuting, a person, who is not one of the accused men, was convicted of the assault of a security man executing the court order on December 11th, 2018.
Supt Boyle confirmed he was aware of commentary on social media following the repossession of the farm on December 11th.
Mr Rafter put it to Supt Boyle that “the failure of gardai to intervene in a timely and proper manner was one of the causes of what happened afterwards”, and Supt Boyle replied, “I reject out of hand”.
The superintendent also gave evidence that he obtained a search warrant for call and cell site data relating to phones associated with Mr Lawlor for the period between 12am and 2pm on December 16th, 2018.
The trial continues before Judge Martina Baxter and a jury.