Youths aged 13 down to eight were engaged in a riot during which they burned down a barn owned by former Limerick hurler, Jimmy Carroll, a judge was told.
All four had been resettled in Co Limerick from the city, it was stated at Limerick Circuit Court.
Mr Carroll told Judge James Donohue that the 13-year-old who admitted starting the blaze challenged him the following day and tried to prevent him driving out of his farm yard, and that this made him apprehensive.
The youths had been causing ongoing problems on his property prior to the fire on June 30, 2013.
Hay, a trailer, and the barn were destroyed and the total loss to Mr Carroll came to over €23,000.
Mr Carroll sued Limerick City and County Council for damages under the 1981 Malicious Injuries Act.
Donal O’Rourke, counsel for Mr Carroll, told Judge James Donohue it was an unusual case as the plaintiff had to prove those who caused the damage were engaged in riotous assembly at the time.
Riotous assembly, he said, was set out in an English case dating back to 1907 which had five strands to the definition. He submitted that the circumstances in which Mr Carroll’s barn was burned contained all the criteria of these five strands.
Mr Carroll said his barn was located at Castlefarm, Hospital, Co Limerick, and he had ongoing problems with a number of youths coming and going from the property. The property was rented and along with the tenant, he tried to get these youths to stay out and had put up trespass signs which were torn down.
On the day of the fire, he went to the scene on learning of what had happened.
He saw the youths in a far off field, after they had got over a ditch.
The day after the fire he went to the burned out shed and as he drove out from the yard, the youth aged 13 tried to block his car in a passageway.
Mr Carroll said he was apprehensive and felt the youth was trying to control his (Carroll’s) emotions.
In the days leading up to the fire he had been in fear, but at the time of the fire he did not feel afraid as there were firemen present and the youths “were down the field hiding”.
Garda Donal O’Sullivan, Bruff, said that after the fire the youths were interviewed and the 13-year-old accepted his part, claiming they were encouraged by others to light the fire.
This youth had been put under a supervision scheme.
Asked by Judge Donohue if the situaiton could have changed into a riot, Garda O’Sullivan said people were apprehensive.
Derek Sheahan, counsel for Limerick City and County Council, said while he had sympathy for Mr Carroll, it was necessary under the act that to be awarded compensation proof of a riot was necessary. Mr Sheahan characterised what occurred as antisocial behaviour and mischief, not a riot.
Judge Donohue said the youths did not go out to rob orchards.
Finding for Mr Carroll and awarding him damages and costs, totalling €23,506, the judge said Mr Carroll had understated the kind of trauma he was subjected to.
This was borne out by the fact that Mr Carroll had not “dealt” with the youths himself being a farmer who could handle himself.
“I don’t think he was able to face up to these individuals. Apprehension had been created for Mr Carroll and in those circumstances, it would be a profound injustice to deprive him of money from the public purse,” said Judge Donohue.
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