Three financial institutions have been ordered by the High Court to provide account details to a Co Tipperary farmer about persons who allegedly threatened and intimidated him into handing over €83,000.
AIB, Bank of Ireland and Bunclody Credit Union, which is part of New Ross Credit Union in Co Wexford, have to give over information including bank accounts and addresses of individuals alleged to have intimidated money out of James Richard Hodgins, who farms near Roscrea.
The orders relate to accounts where cheques Mr Hodgins claims he was intimidated into signing, were lodged. The orders were sought in a bid to identify individuals allegedly involved in the intimidation, Desmond Murphy SC for Mr Hodgins told the High Court. The financial institutions did not oppose the application for the orders.
Making the orders yesterday, Ms Justice Miriam O’Regan asked that the information sought be furnished “as soon as possible”.
The judge also continued injunctions restraining 14 individuals coming near Mr Hodgins or his farm.
Last February Mr Hodgins whose farm is near Roscrea, initially secured temporary injunctions restraining 17 individuals coming near him or his farm. He alleges the defendants have left him in fear of his own safety and that of his property.
Yesterday when the matter returned before the court Mr Murphy said the injunction had worked, in so far, Mr Hodgins was not being approached or intimidated anymore.
A number of the parties involved, counsel said, had “repented” and had paid back or promised to repay money advanced to them by Mr Hodgins.
Counsel said there was no need to continue the injunctions obtained against three of individuals concerned, but asked the court to continue the orders against the remaining 14.
Counsel said there had been difficulties in serving the proceedings on the majority of the defendants, believed to be living in the south-east of the country, who he said remained “out of sight” but were “not unaware of what is going on”.
To rectify this his client required the information from the institutions about the accounts in which cheques signed by Mr Hodgins were lodged.
The case will come back before the court in June.
Mr Hodgins has lived alone since his father died a few years ago and was approached in 2013 by the defendants, who all know each other, offering to do work on the farm.
The works were often either not done at all or were substandard, he said. Mr Hodgins felt intimidated into paying them. After a while, their offers of work stopped and the defendants began demanding handouts and loans.
Mr Hodgins felt intimidated and could not refuse them, Counsel said. They would call to his house and make repeated phone calls to him. Mr Hodgins wrote them cheques totalling €102,000, of which €83,000 was cashed.
Last December Mr Hodgins was approached by a man who threatened him with harm unless he wrote him a cheque for €17,000.
Bank officials became suspicious of the transactions and, after Mr Hodgins explained what was happening, the cheque was cancelled. He was advised by the bank to contact his solicitor.
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