AN IRVINESTOWN farmer who used his JCB tractor as a weapon to destroy the vehicles of two men who had come to look about purchasing land has been jailed for nine months.
On December 12 last year police received information that two vehicles parked on private land had been damaged by a JCB type vehicle.
When police arrived they saw one vehicle on its side badly damaged and the other vehicle also extensively damaged.
The owners of the vehicles, a potential buyer of the land and a surveyor, were at the scene and named the defendant as having caused the damage.
When located a short distance away the defendant, fifty-nine year old Patrick Gerard Donnelly from Old Junction Road, Cabragh, Irvinestown, told police ‘I did nothing wrong’.
The defendant was later interviewed and freely admitted using the digger to damage the two vehicles.
The court heard the defendant had recently lost control of the family farm, and it also head he had previously used his tractor as a weapon.
Deputy District Judge Paul Conway asked why the defendant wasn’t facing a charge such as ‘furious driving’ and he asked solicitor Tommy Owens could be imagine the fear these two men must have felt as they watched their cars being destroyed in front of their eyes by this man on his tractor.
Mr Owens said the tractor was only moving at 2-3 miles per hour at the time but that he wasn’t going to offer any excuses on his defendant’s behalf.
The defendant admitted the two charges of criminal damage and an assault charge, which related to putting a person or persons in fear of being assaulted.
Sentencing, the judge said ‘in this case the defendant is charged with criminal damage of two vehicles.
“This incident arose when Mr Donnelly’s now ex-wife was given 50 acres of land which was part of the defendant’s farm.
“She is now seeking to sell this land, and when the defendant was informed on the day in question that two people were on his land looking to buy it he proceeded to drive his tractor to the field where they were.
“He then used his tractor as a weapon to damage the windscreens and roofs of the two vehicles (a Nissan Terrano and a Vauxhall Astra).”
The judge pointed out he caused substantial damage to the two vehicles, causing one to the written off and £5,000 damage to the other.
The judge said the sole intention of this was stopping his wife selling the land, and he said there is no evidence of regret on his part.
The court heard the land is still to be sold and the judge asked Mr Owens “what happens when the next person comes out to view the land?”
“He has learned his lesson” replied Mr Owens.
The judge said he was aware the defendant ran a farm and looked after animals but said this couldn’t give him impunity to committing such serious offences.
The judge imposed a sentence of nine months for each of the criminal damage charges and for the assault a 12 month conditional discharge.
For using his tractor as a weapon the judge disqualified the defendant from driving for 18 months.
He also ordered £5,000 compensation be paid to each of the victims.
Following an defence application bail of £350 was set to appeal the sentence and the defendant released pending appeal.
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