A 57-year-old grandfather of 24 and his 34-year-old son have avoided prison and warned against committing burglaries and trespassing on rural farms.
William O'Reilly Sr and William O'Reilly Jr, both of 52 Willow Bank Drive, Fairhill in Cork, were found guilty of burglary and trespass respectively at Clonakilty District Court, despite their insistence that they had gone to a farm in Kilbrittain on September 23 last year simply to ask the farmer if they were selling scrap metal, old batteries, and a mobile home.
The court heard from farmer William O'Driscoll that he and his son had come upon a red van in their yard that they did not recognise. There was nobody in the van, but when they approached a shed near the milking parlour they saw a man inside.
Having told the man he was trespassing, another man came over a nearby gate. The farmer called gardaí and blocked the red van from leaving with their own vehicle.
Defence solicitor Flor Murphy put it to the farmer that the men had entered the property because there was no gate or signage telling them to keep out, and that they were there to enquire about scrap metal and old batteries.
Mr O'Reilly Sr told the court that he had entered the shed to call out to let anyone potentially inside know that he wanted to do business.
If that method of calling to farms to ask about trading scrap metal was not acceptable, then there would no way of doing such trade, he insisted. He was not there for burglary, he said.
Mr O'Reilly Jr told the court that he wanted to apologise to the farmer for causing such angst but that they meant no harm.
Their solicitor told Judge Colm Roberts that the question of "mens rea", or whether the intent to commit a crime was present, was the crux of the issue. His clients had no such intention, he said.
Judge Roberts said he was satisfied that criminal intent was present and convicted the men.
The court was told by Inspector Debra Marsh that Mr O'Reilly Sr has 29 previous convictions, including for possession of stolen property, while Mr O'Reilly Jr had 32 previous, including four for theft.
Mr O'Reilly Sr had 10 children and 24 grandchildren, he told the court. Mr O'Reilly Jr was employed as a labourer at present, he said.
Judge Roberts said that since both men had not come to the attention of gardaí since the incident, he would impose a six-month and four-month sentence on Mr O'Reilly Sr and Mr O'Reilly Jr respectively, suspended for two years. Mr O'Reilly Sr was also banned from driving for three months.
Judge Roberts asked the men if they were aware of the dangers of stealing from derelict or unoccupied places.
"Some people could have shotguns," he told them.
Tragedies have been known to happen in Ireland because of these types of situations, and "we are trying to avert tragedies", Judge Roberts said.
In October 2004, farmer Pádraig Nally fatally shot an intruder on his land in Co Mayo and raised nationwide discussion about homeowners' use of reasonable force in protecting their homes.