A former Fianna Fáil substitute MEP has had a public order charge against him dismissed.
Kieran Hartley of Ballyboy, Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford, appeared before Judge Brian O’Shea at a special sitting of Dungarvan District Court, charged with a Section 6 offence on land adjacent to his property on August 15, 2020.
The case against Mr Hartley, who served as substitute MEP for Brian Crowley before leaving Fianna Fáil in 2018, related to a row with a neighbour over hedge cutting on adjoining land.
There had been four pre-trial sittings relating to the charge since last September, including allegations of statements falsified by gardaí, all of which were dismissed.
Several witnesses attended the final hearing, but just two for the prosecution entered the stand.
Witness Eleanor O’Connor told the court she was alerted to Mr Hartley cutting the hedge at the top of a boreen by her elderly father-in-law ‘Rodgy’ O’Connor (Snr), who was upset.
The witness said she drove about a kilometre to the area, but on asking Mr Hartley to cease, he had said: “Fuck off Eleanor” and “Go away”.
She said that when asked if he would send her a solicitor’s letter “as he has done to others”, Mr Hartley replied: “No, I’ll get you another way”.
Ms O’Connor also claimed Mr Hartley asked her if her mother had “ever tried to knock you down in a boreen” and if her father had “ever come at you with a chainsaw?” She said Mr Hartley repeatedly shouted that he had paid for the ditch and could do as he wished.
The witness said that as he was trying to ring gardaí, other family members arrived, and angry words were exchanged before the confrontation eventually subsided.
Defence solicitor Frank Buttimer forensically cross-examined Ms O’Connor’s evidence, criticising her sequence of events, and alluding to a timeframe being altered on her statement to investigating Garda Thomas Daly without her initials of consent being evident.
Witness Roger O’Connor (Jnr) recalled that on the day, Mr Hartley “was very angry”, and there was “no talking to him”, while corroborating his sister-in-law’s evidence.
Judge O’Shea decided further witnesses would likely repeat what was already stated, and closed the hearing.
He said the case was “not a land dispute”, but about “an alleged criminal offence” in which the accused was “not being charged with impoliteness”.
Noting two utterances made during the confrontation, Judge O’Shea said telling someone to “fuck off” and “go away” was “unsavoury”, but not a criminal offence.
Threatening to “get someone in a different way” was open to “an entirely innocent as well as a guilty explanation”, he said, but if there was doubt as to which was accurate, the benefit must apply to the defendant.
Therefore he was dismissing the charge.