Former INLA man Dessie O’Hare, who was known as “The Border Fox”, told gardai that he was employed by businessman Jim Mansfield Junior to evict an employee and his family from his home, the Special Criminal Court heard today.
The three-judge court also heard during O’Hare’s sentence hearing today that the employee pleaded with him to be given a few days to leave his property voluntarily but the defendant refused, saying: “Get out right now”.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt said that despite O’Hare’s counsel having made “a thought-provoking” plea in mitigation on his behalf, a non-custodial sentence was an “unlikely outcome”.
O’Hare (62), of Slate Rock Road, Newtownhamilton, Co Armagh, admitted last January to assaulting John Roche, causing him harm, at The Towers, Garter Lane, Saggart, County Dublin on June 9th, 2015.
He also pleaded guilty to falsely imprisoning Martin Byrne at Rathcoole and Saggart on the same date.
The non-jury court was asked to take two counts of falsely imprisoning Mr Byrne’s wife and son into consideration.
At today’s sentence hearing Detective Superintendent Colm O’Malley summarised the facts of the case.
Det Supt O’Malley told prosecuting counsel Shane Costelloe SC that Martin Byrne was employed by the well-known businessman and multi-millionaire Jim Mansfield Senior for almost twenty years.
Mr Mansfield Snr had run a number of prominent businesses before his death and Mr Byrne had provided a security-type arrangement for him and his extended family. A number of Mr Mansfield Snr’s properties were in the process of or had been brought into NAMA by the time of his death, the court heard.
Jim Mansfield Junior had taken over the running of his father’s business at this time and the portfolio of properties included a block of apartments called The Towers, which was close to Citywest. Mr Mansfield Jnr was having particular difficulty reacquiring control of of the apartments at The Towers, which was not under the control of NAMA and the subject of a dispute between him and other people.
The court heard that Mr Mansfield Jnr asked Mr Byrne to accompany him to a business meeting in May 2015 with a view to seeing if his interest in the tower block could be reacquired.
Mr Byrne felt “uncomfortable” with the nature of the proposed meeting but Mr Mansfield Jnr insisted he go with him to a business park, where they were met by O’Hare and Declan Duffy.
Mr Byrne told the men at this meeting that he could not partake “in the conversation” as Mr Mansfield Jnr had his own interest in the proposed subject matter. Mr Byrne was perceived as the person who had called off the meeting and he left with his employer, Mr Mansfield Jnr. There was a deterioration in the two men’s relationship after the aborted meeting which resulted in very little contact between them at this time, said Mr Costelloe.
The court heard that Mr Byrne and his family lived in two units at The Towers during this time , which was owned by Mr Mansfield Jnr.
Mr Mansfield Jnr contacted Mr Byrne to have a further meeting and they went to the same business park on June 9, where again O’Hare and Duffy were waiting in a room. At this point, Mr Mansfield Jnr left the room and five other men came in and Mr Byrne was “blocked off” from leaving.
Mr Byrne was told in “no uncertain terms” that he and his family had to vacate The Towers before he was brought to the courtyard of the building and placed into a car by the men. Mr Byrne pleaded with O’Hare to give him a couple of days to leave his home but the defendant refused and said: “Get out now”, before he was placed in a car.
Three cars drove in convoy back to The Towers and Mr Byrne was assaulted by the men in the car until they arrived at the gates of The Towers. O’Hare was in a different car at the time.
Following this, John Roche came to the gate and asked to open it but he refused to do so and ran into the complex. Mr Byrne explained to the men that if they drove slowly at the gates they would open automatically.
Meanwhile, some of the other men went to look for Mr Roche and found him in a nearby house. Five men including the defendant dragged Mr Roche from his house and assaulted him on the ground by kicking and punching him. CCTV footage of the assault was shown to court.
O’Hare was seen kicking Mr Roche four times while the other men punched and kicked him. Men can be seen bringing Mr Byrne’s wife and his son past the scene of the assault and towards the gates of the complex. Mr Roche and Mr Byrne were then brought to the same apartment but a resident at The Towers saw what was happening and placed a 999 call to Gardaí who soon arrived, said Mr Costelloe. O’Hare and the other six men fled the scene at this point, the court heard.
According to Det Insp O’Malley, an investigation commenced and arrest warrants were issued. O’Hare had returned to Northern Ireland at the time but he ultimately came back to the jurisdiction of his own volition and presented himself at Clondalkin Garda Station with his solicitor in January 2018. The defendant had prepared a pre-prepared statement to gardai.
Det Insp O’Malley agreed with Mr Costelloe that O’Hare had cooperated as much as he could with gardai and acknowledged that he was at The Towers and had been employed by Mr Mansfield Jnr.
The three members of the Byrne family have since been placed in the Witness Protection Programme, the court heard.
O’Hare has four previous convictions which include possession of a firearm, which he received a five-year suspended sentence for at the Special Criminal Court in 1977.
O’Hare also received a six-month sentence for assaulting a guard in 1979 and began serving a nine-year sentence the same year for possession of a firearm.
In 1988, O’Hare was sentenced to 40 years imprisonment for two offences; false imprisonment and assault causing grievous bodily harm. As a result of the Good Friday Agreement, he was released from that sentence in October 2008, said Mr Costelloe.
Mr Justice Hunt interjected at this point and asked the prosecution counsel if these previous offences have any consequences in terms of sentencing. “I have no instructions,” replied Mr Costelloe.
Under cross-examination, Det Sgt O’Malley agreed with Sean Guerin SC, defending, that an arrest warrant had been issued for O’Hare but ultimately it was not necessary to pursue that process as he had presented himself by arrangement to gardai.
The detective further agreed with Mr Guerin that this has been O’Hare’s “only matter” before the court since his release from prison in 2008.
The court heard that O’Hare has been working full-time in a tarmac and surfacing business since his release. The detective agreed with counsel that O’Hare’s last prison sentence was not just a long one but also a difficult one, served in different times when matters were more contentious.
The detective further accepted that O’Hare has real concerns about the consequences of returning to prison.
Mr Guerin told the court that a letter of apology, which was hand-written by O’Hare, was of value to the court and represented a very different approach to the court process than what would have been exhibited by him in former times.
In his submissions, Mr Guerin said that his client has a serious criminal record which dates back thirty years in terms of offending. However, Mr Guerin said that since his release he has shown himself to be capable of working and functioning in the community. Mr Guerin asked the court to see this incident as an isolated matter and not reflective of the character that he has shown over the last 13 years.
Mr Guerin asked the court to take into account that the long-term consequences of O’Hare’s imprisonment are “enduring, serious and intrusive” in his daily life.
The barrister asked the judges to be as lenient as possible when sentencing his client and to consider in mitigation that his past imprisonment has been difficult for him with long-term consequences.
“Imprisonment in this case would be a particularly onerous and a harsh punishment for him and it would be difficult for him to bear,” added counsel.
The court heard that another defendant in this case had received a fully suspended sentence and Mr Guerin asked the court “not to close its mind” to that possibility. However, the gravity of the offence may compel the court in a different direction, he added.
A letter from Crosswell Trust, who operate a reconciliation centre, was handed into court. A letter was also handed in from O’Hare’s parish priest and his employer, who said O’Hare was remorseful for his actions as he had let a lot of family members down.
Mr Guerin said that mitigating factors were his client’s guilty plea, his apology, the fact he had presented himself at a garda station, offered a voluntary statement and had complied with his bail conditions.
In conclusion, the lawyer asked the court to avoid the “easy and attracting temptation” to judge his client only by his previous convictions.
The court rose for a few minutes and when it recommenced Mr Justice Hunt said that while the plea in mitigation was thought-provoking, “the non-custodial route” was an unlikely outcome.
Mr Justice Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Patricia Ryan and Judge Ann Ryan, remanded O’Hare in custody until April 11, when he will be sentenced.
Former Republican paramilitary Declan “Whacker” Duffy was sentenced by the Special Criminal Court to six years imprisonment last year after pleading guilty to assaulting John Roche, causing him harm, at The Towers, Garter Lane, Saggart, County Dublin on June 9, 2015. He also admitted falsely imprisoning Martin Byrne at Rathcoole/Saggart on the same date.
Three other men have also been jailed for the attack.