A jury in the trial of four men accused of taking part in a vigilante group attack on men guarding a repossessed farmhouse will continue deliberating for a third day on Tuesday.
At around 5am on December 16th, 2018, a group of approximately 30 armed men smashed their way into a house at a recently repossessed rural property at Falsk, just outside Strokestown, Co Roscommon. They were armed with weapons, including a baseball bat, a meat cleaver, a hurley, a stick with nails in it and a chain saw and attacked the men who were present guarding the property.
Patrick J 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, Co Meath have pleaded not guilty to 17 charges each at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
Each defendant is charged with false imprisonment and assault causing harm to four security personnel, aggravated burglary, arson of four vehicles which were set alight, criminal damage to the front door of the house, violent disorder, robbery of a wristwatch from one security guard and finally, causing unnecessary suffering to an animal by causing or permitting an animal to be struck on the head.
At around 4pm on Monday, Judge Martina Baxter told jurors to suspend their deliberations until Tuesday morning. The jury has now deliberated for a total of just under eight hours.
Deliberations began on Thursday afternoon and continued on Friday afternoon. Before going home on Friday the jury foreman indicated to Judge Baxter that the jury wished to examine two exhibits; a pickaxe handle and a grey hat.
On Monday morning, these exhibits were given to the jury.
The prosecution evidence is that a garda from Ramelton identified Mr Sweeney from still images and video footage allegedly recorded on a body camera worn by one of the security men during the attack. It’s the State’s case that he is the man on the footage wearing a hunter’s hat and wielding a chain saw in one hand and a pickaxe handle in the other.
Mr Sweeney’s defence say that the identification was unfairly carried out and was contaminated by suggestion. Patrick McGrath SC, defending, also said that the hat in the footage could not be the same hat found in Mr Sweeney’s home as it was a different colour and had a different peak.
On Friday the jury had asked the judge to direct it again in the principle of common design. Judge Baxter said that this is a legal principle which holds that if two or more people enter into a plan to commit a crime, each person is responsible for the actions of all the others in pursuit of that common design.
She said that mere presence at the scene of crime does not amount to criminal responsibility and that there is no obligation on someone to prevent a crime being committed.