DPP orders probe over alleged jury misconduct

Thursday 28 March 2013 15.18
Judge Tony Hunt said he was somewhat mystified by the application and by the defendant's allegation
Judge Tony Hunt said he was somewhat mystified by the application and by the defendant's allegation

The Director of Public Prosecutions has ordered an investigation after allegations of jury misconduct at the trial of a Co Longford farmer.

The farmer was found guilty of falsely imprisoning and assaulting two men who were trying to repossess machinery from his farm.

An application was made for the adjournment of the sentencing of Donal Connaughton, 54, from Elfeet, Newtowncashel.

The pig farmer told the judge he wanted to bring forward a motion for a mistrial in view of serious evidence, in relation to jury misconduct, which he had brought to the attention of the gardaí.

Mr Connaughton had been found guilty by a jury on 20 December of two counts of false imprisonment, two charges of threatening to cause serious harm, two counts of criminal damage and a charge of assault after an incident on his farm in April 2010.

Two men from a repossession company called to his home.

Barrister Daniel Keane for the State said he wanted to inform the court that a matter had come to the attention of the prosecution in the last few days which was a very important matter in relation to the trial and sentencing hearing.

Mr Keane said the matter deals with the DPP's overall responsibility in relation to the staging of a trial with the jury and he was seeking an eight week adjournment to have the matter investigated.

He said it was a very unusual situation that may or may not amount to something but he was reluctant to get into any further details in court today as it may touch on other individuals who were not there.

Judge Tony Hunt said he was somewhat mystified by the application and Mr Connaughton's allegation.

He said it was his view that the jury expressed a verdict in accordance with the evidence heard at the trial, he said the application for a mistrial was not a matter for him and he did not want to leave Mr Connaughton's sentencing on the back burner for too long.

After a short recess Judge Hunt returned to the bench and said that even though he was at a loss to know what was going on he would agree to an adjournment of the sentencing until the 6 June.