A judge who heard days of evidence about bad blood between neighbours over a house extension said the two parties were very foolish but only one was before the court.
Judge Aingil Ní Chondúin said she would strike out the charges against David Mulligan of harassment if he contributed €500 to the family refuge Cuanlee. The judge said of the harassment charges that if this was done in a fortnight “I will make it disappear”.
While the judge said the facts of the case were proved, she also remarked at Cork District Court that “this is a matter that should not really have come to this court”.
Referring to the parties on either side, the judge said: “These are two professional people here. We all know what can go wrong in a build. Talking is good. Communication is good. If they cannot talk that is how things go from bad to worse. I expect people to be professional at all times.
“This business should never have come into the criminal courts, it is a civil matter. They should have had the savvy and cop-on to hand it over to an assessor or a loss adjuster. There was tension from the parties from start to finish — from the tone of their evidence. It all goes downhill. They are on the attack, they are on the defence, it is their attitude which has them here.”
The judge said there was no doubt the parties would be back before a civil court arguing it out further.
Mr Mulligan pleaded not guilty to harassing John and Gwenda Hughes between June 1, 2012, and March 13, 2014.
Mr Mulligan, 38, testified yesterday that he and his wife Sonia were invited into the Hughes’s house to see their plans. He made 10 observations about the plans.
“Gwenda was making tut sounds and groaning at any suggestions I made,” Mr Mulligan said.
He said they suffered a lot during the construction of the extension by his neighbours.
“It was exceptionally difficult for my wife and child,” Mr Mulligan said. “Sonia said she was being watched by builders and leaning over the wall. I purchased a very cheap web cam and put it in my bedroom.”
Frank Buttimer, solicitor, asked if Mr and Mrs Hughes did anything to assuage their concerns about the extension to their home.
Mr Mulligan said: “We went out to discuss the problems. Their response was: ‘Not our problem, go away.’ ”
When he raised it with the builder that there was mould on walls in his house and some cracks because the property next door was substantially open to the elements for so long during the construction, he characterised the builder’s response as: “Not my problem.”
Inspector Adrian Gamble said there was a complaint he harassed Mrs Hughes by staring at her intently when she was feeding her baby in her own home. Mr Mulligan said: “I deny it absolutely.”
He said he had a web cam in his bedroom window and said: “I would be cutting the lawn and Gwenda would be pointing her camera at me; that would be why I continued with my web cam.”
As for the accusation that he blasted out music, he said: “It simply did not happen. Other residents would have heard if I was playing music that sounded like an earthquake for at least a year. At the time we had a two-year-old and a newborn baby.”
He described allegations that he made any comments that could be described as being threatening in nature as absolute fabrication. He also denied kicking a ball against a wall.
Sonia Mulligan, who is originally from Madrid, said they were happy in the area until the neighbours built their extension. She said they moved out of the estate two months ago because they thought it would be the best way to resolve the conflict. She said her husband was not staring at neighbours or behaving in the way described by Mr and Mrs Hughes. She said:“We mind our own business. We don’t mind someone else’s business.”
Mr and Mrs Mulligan said a cabinetmaker in the Hughes’s house who described seeing Mr Mulligan with a camcorder was wrong and it was a rake. She said: “If he mistakes a rake for a camcorder he needs to go to Specsavers.”
Michael O’Mahony and Brendan McCarthy, who live nearby on the estate, described Mr Mulligan as a mild-mannered, straightforward, hard-working, honest, and honourable man who had worked actively for the benefit of the community.
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