A man accused of coercion and threatening to cause criminal damage to his aunt’s home was yesterday cleared at Cork Circuit Criminal Court of all charges.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin’s decision to direct the jury to enter verdicts of not guilty after each charge followed the playing of a taped recording in court.
Alan Garland, aged 30, was heard saying repeatedly on the tapes he was not planning to cause any trouble for Joanne Bell from 9, Cahergal Park, Ballyhooley Road, Cork, and had referred to her as his favourite aunt.
Ms Bell had complained to gardaí her nephew coerced her with threats of violence not to sell a family home she inherited. However, a recording she made of phone calls fundamentally undermined the State’s case against the accused.
Judge Ó Donnabháin listened to the recordings to two phonecalls made by Mr Garland to Ms Bell. She had testified on Monday that she was threatened and coerced by her nephew over the sale of a house which her mother had left to her. The judge said there was no comparison between the recorded phonecalls and her evidence to the jury.
“She gives a clear and coherent account of threats all coming the one way overbearing her will and causing emotional anxiety and grief. All the counts on the indictment are predicated on that. The problem with the tape is that it sets a completely different tone. The person making the demands and moving things on is her. It is moved along at her discretion,” the judge said.
He said her allegations that she had been threatened that guns would be used and drug dealers would be brought to her house were not borne out by the tape.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said her case against her nephew was fundamentally undermined by her own recordings of phonecalls.
Defence senior counsel Elizabeth O’Connell had asked the judge to direct the jury to enter not guilty verdicts. Ms O’Connell said the accused man had been remanded in custody on the charges since May. He was told yesterday he was free to go.
Mr Garland who had been living at Mornington Close, Malahide Road, Dublin, and an address in Listowel, Co Kerry, denied the charges.
Ms Bell had said: “I was threatened by Alan. I told him I was selling the house. He did not like it. He said he would put a gun to my head and kill me. He would get a drug dealer and get €200,000 from him to buy the house from me.
“I wanted to tell him face to face that I was selling the house. I had already known he was angry about me selling the house.
“I rang him. I asked him to come to the house. He said under no circumstances will you sell this house. He said he would fucking kill me. I would end up in a body bag. No way he was letting me sell the house.
“I was being honest and being fair and letting him know I was selling the house and that was his response to me.
“He did the same thing again. He said he knew people, he had connections with people. He would get me sorted.
“[Another time] I got a call from his sister to tell me he was on his way, to get out because he was full of anger.
“I got a call that he was going to burn down the house. I went straight to the guards in Mayfield.”
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