Donal Connaughton, aged 55, from Elfeet, Newtowncashel, Co Longford, was sentenced to 12 months in prison at Longford Circuit Court sitting in Tullamore yesterday.
At the conclusion of his trial in December last year, the farmer was found guilty of two counts of false imprisonment, two charges of threatening to cause serious harm, one count of assault, and two of criminal damage. He was found not guilty on another charge of assault.
Patrick Mulvey and Justin Tighe, employees of repossession company Assets Security, of Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, had earlier told the court they had feared for their lives after going to JAC Pigs Ltd in Longford on Apr 29, 2010, to repossess items on behalf of GE Money.
A scuffle had taken place in the yard at the pig farm, during which Mr Mulvey and Mr Tighe said they were assaulted.
They had told the court in evidence that Donal Connaughton had ordered them to strip and get into the pen with the agitated boar and they feared they were going to be violated by the animal.
The animal could be heard on an audio recording made by one of the men on his phone during their ordeal.
The two men were heard pleading to be let go and promised Connaughton they would never return to the premises, but he said he wanted to “teach them a lesson”.
The two men were told to strip naked and they would be allowed walk out of the yard. When they refused, Connaughton made them get down on their knees and say the ‘Our Father’ prayer before they were let go, leaving their truck behind.
The two men had arrived at the farm to repossess a generator and two power-washers.
Sentencing was adjourned on a number of occasions earlier this year after the farmer claimed he had evidence of jury misconduct.
Two separate Garda investigations into his claims came to nothing, the court heard.
At yesterday’s sentencing hearing, Connaughton’s solicitor, Patricia Cronin, read a statement from her client in which he said he had worked hard and long hours with honesty and dedication. But the period leading up to 2010 had been particularly difficult. “I was feeling the heat,” he said, in a reference to trying to deal with “3,000 fat pigs”.
He admitted he had become angry and that things had gone too far. He didn’t attempt to justify the extent of his behaviour and he wanted to apologise.
Judge Tony Hunt described his dealings with the two repossession men as “a disastrous over-reaction”. The men were clearly frightened and wanted to leave. They even asked Connaughton to call the gardaí and have them arrested for trespassing.
But he had told them to strip and that he had “a good, wicked boar here”. He would then see how manly “these jackeens are”.
Connaughton had vented his spleen and ire on the men, the judge said, adding that while he took no satisfaction in sending a man of his age to prison, he imposed concurrent sentences of 12 months on each of the charges on which he was found guilty.
The judge also noted that the repo men were, in his view, placed in a very difficult position by the financial institution on whose behalf they were acting.
It was “extremely incorrect and improper” to send them to see if they could get “a few quid” from the farmer. The judge said that perhaps their principals had questions to answer.