The Sligo Champion - - FRONT PAGE - By PAUL DEER­ING

A 63 year old farmer ended up be­ing pep­per sprayed dur­ing a grap­ple with a Garda when his horse was be­ing seized in a field by a con­trac­tor work­ing on be­half of the County Coun­cil.

Farmer James Kil­feather of Breeogue was al­leged to have been ver­bally abu­sive and ag­gres­sive when he ar­rived to find his 25 year old mare be­ing loaded onto a horse box for tak­ing away.

There was a dis­pute as to whose land the an­i­mal was on with the de­fen­dant claim­ing it was on his land and not that of his brother- in­law, Mr Gildea.

Garda Tony Lavin was present dur­ing the op­er­a­tion and he was con­fronted by Kil­feather, Sligo District Court was told last Thurs­day.

The two men ended up on the ground and the Garda had to pep­per spray the de­fen­dant but the court heard it had no ef­fect and that Kil­feather was able to get back up and try to run off and to jump over a nearby fence.

The in­ci­dent un­folded at Breeogue, Knock­nahur on April 21st last, aris­ing from which, Kil­feather, now 64, was sum­moned for fail­ing to com­ply with the di­rec­tion of a Garda, en­gag­ing in threat­en­ing, abu­sive or in­sult­ing be­hav­iour and ob­struct­ing a Garda.

Garda Lavin told the court that it was to­wards the end of the pro­ce­dure to seize the horse from a field close to the road at Breeogue when he was ap­proached by the de­fen­dant who be­came ver­bally abu­sive to him and the con­trac­tors.

Kil­feather was di­rected a num­ber of times to de­sist and to leave the scene but he con­tin­ued to be vi­o­lent and abu­sive, said the Garda.

“I was out on the main road and he be­gan to push me all around the road,” said the Garda, adding that Kil­feather wanted to im­pede the con­trac­tor and re­move the horse from the horse­box.

“Even­tu­ally, I had to de­ploy pep­per spray, the sit­u­a­tion had de­te­ri­o­rated so much,” he said.

Garda Lavin said Kil­feather told him they had no right to be do­ing what they were do­ing.

In re­ply to Mr Alan Gan­non, solic­i­tor (de­fend­ing), Garda Lavin said he had re­ceived no­ti­fi­ca­tion from the con­trac­tor that they were go­ing to re­move the horse. He had tried to re­solve the mat­ter through me­di­a­tion pre­vi­ously.

On April 11 th he had placed a no­tice on the land giv­ing the de­fen­dant un­til the 13th to re­move the horse from the field which be­longed to his brother-in-law.

Mr Gan­non said the de­fen­dant would say he put the horse into the field on April 1st and re­moved it on the 6 th. He re­turned it on the 10 th and was then al­legedly as­saulted by his broth­erin-law and the horse was put out on the road, later be­ing re­turned to the field by the de­fen­dant.

Mr Gan­non said the Garda told the de­fen­dant on the 11 th to re­move the horse and that he did so on the 13th, plac­ing the an­i­mal on his own land.

Mr Gan­non put it to the Garda that the de­fen­dant felt he was un­fair to him and had ha­rassed him.

“He (de­fen­dant) will say you went in and took his horse out of his field and hav­ing got a text about the sit­u­a­tion from his sis­ter-in-law, he used a pair of binoc­u­lars to see what was go­ing on?” The Garda de­nied this.

“He will also say he went down to the road and the horse was in a horse­box at this stage and you be­gan to push him away when all he wanted to do was for a vet to have a look at his horse”- Mr Gan­non.

“The man was very un­rea­son­able and was push­ing me around the place” - Garda.

He fur­ther stated that it wasn’t the case that he had im­peded Mr Kil­feather from look­ing at the reg­is­tra­tion plate of the jeep which was tak­ing the horse away as he wanted to know where the an­i­mal was be­ing taken.

“He was give a di­rec­tion a num­ber of times to leave and he failed to do so,” said Garda Lavin. The de­fen­dant had to be ar­rested. Mr Gan­non put it to Garda Lavin that he had pep­per sprayed the de­fen­dant in the eye, that he had knocked him to the ground and put his knee on his back.

“We en­gaged in what was a wrestling match on the ground,” said Garda Lavin. He said he man­aged to placed hand­cuffs on the de­fen­dant while he was ly­ing on the ground de­spite the strug­gle and then called for as­sis­tance.

Garda Lavin agreed that the pep­per spray didn’t have much ef­fect on the de­fen­dant who tried to run off and jump over a gate.

The Garda agreed that the con­trac­tors did not get in­volved and were also not in court to give ev­i­dence as to what they wit­nessed. He hadn’t taken state­ments from the two em­ploy­ees, a male and a fe­male.

The de­fen­dant was sub­se­quently brought to Bal­ly­mote Garda Sta­tion and was sub­se­quently re­leased on sta­tion bail.

Garda Lavin de­nied he had punched Kil­feather say­ing he did not know how he had re­ceived a cut to his nose. Wit­ness also de­nied he had put his knee on the de­fen­dant’s back.

Mr Gan­non told the court that when the de­fen­dant re­turned home af­ter his re­lease from Bal­ly­mote Sta­tion the horse had been re­turned to the field.

Garda Lavin told Mr Gan­non that he had not been as­saulted by Kil­feather but that there had been “an aw­ful lot of push­ing and shov­ing.”

The de­fen­dant, in ev­i­dence, agreed that there was an his­toric dis­pute with his brother-in-law over a field. He out­lined how he put the horse into the brother-in-law’s field on April 1st, tak­ing it out on the 6 th and re­turn­ing it on the 10 th.

Later that evening he found the mare on the road and he re­turned it to the field and he was con­fronted with the Gar­daí be­ing called.

On the 11 th he was vis­ited by Garda Lavin and a no­tice was served on him. The de­fen­dant rang a Garda Sergeant in Sligo about Garda Lavin.

The de­fen­dant claimed that Garda Lavin told him that he would be deal­ing with the mat­ter and not the Sergeant and that he had an in­ter­est in the field.

The de­fen­dant said he took the horse out of his brother-in-law’s field on the 13th as re­quested and put it into his own field.

On the 21st he got a text from his sis­ter-in-law say­ing the horse was be­ing re­moved. He was in his farm­yard at the time and got his binoc­u­lars to look and he saw Garda Lavin re­mov­ing the horse from his prop­erty.

The de­fen­dant had to cross two or three fields to get down to the road and when he got there the horse was al­ready loaded on to a horse­box with an English reg­is­tered jeep.

“I asked Garda Lavin what was my horse do­ing in the jeep and he started push­ing me in the chest,” he said, adding that he didn’t know where his horse was go­ing to be taken.

“I walked away and all of a sud­den I heard, ‘ar­rest’ and I got pep­per spray into the cor­ner of my eye and I was knocked to the ground. I had my hands in my pocket at the time. He held me down and he took my hands and hand­cuffed me,” said the de­fen­dant.

He stressed that he wasn’t vi­o­lent, that he was hon­est and not ag­gres­sive. He said he hadn’t been able to get up off the ground and that the Garda gave him a hand up. The Garda then rang for back-up.

When he got to Bal­ly­mote Sta­tion he was brought to have his face washed and cleaned. There was blood com­ing out his mouth too. He added that the Garda there couldn’t have done more for him. He was re­leased with a charge sheet.

He headed off walk­ing and rang a friend who col­lected him. He re­turned to his land and saw that the mare had been re­turned. He kept it in his farm­yard now.

In re­ply to In­spec­tor Paul Kil­coyne (prose­cut­ing), the de­fen­dant said the gate to his field was about 100 yards from his brother-in-law’s field. He had no an­i­mal on Mr Gildea’s prop­erty from April 13th.

The de­fen­dant said he went to hospi­tal on the 21st and later told a Garda Jen­nings about what had hap­pened. He didn’t make a com­plaint abut Garda Lavin.

Giv­ing judge­ment, Judge Kevin Kil­rane said it was a rather un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent with two dif­fer­ent au­thor­i­ties in­volved.

He said it was al­ways his un­der­stand­ing of the law that an an­i­mal can­not be im­pounded if the au­thor­i­ties are aware of who the owner is.

The Judge said he was sat­is­fied that the horse was taken from Mr Gildea’s land and that the de­fen­dant was mis­taken in this re­gard.

Garda Lavin was present to pre­vent a breach of the peace and there was noth­ing un­usual in this and he was there for no other pur­pose.

The Judge said a re­mark by the de­fen­dant sug­gest­ing the Garda had an in­ter­est in the land was just “thrown in” by the de­fen­dant in an at­tempt to “muddy the wa­ter.”

It was a nasty com­ment to cast as­per­sions on the Garda and the Judge said he re­jected this re­mark.

The Judge said that hav­ing ob­served the de­fen­dant in the wit­ness box he could see that he was an emo­tional man and was sat­is­fied he tried to push for­ward and in­ter­fere with the process.

Re­gard­ing the ar­rest, the Judge said Gar­daí must be al­lowed rea­son­able lat­i­tude in re­spect of the use of force.

It was un­for­tu­nate that in the course of this ar­rest the de­fen­dant fell to the ground and re­ceived a mi­nor in­jury to his nose and if the Garda had to sit on him in or­der to ef­fect the ar­rest, “then so be it.”

On the whole the de­fen­dant felt wronged.

He had placed a horse on land not be­long­ing to him in or­der to stake a claim no doubt.

This was an in­di­ca­tion of his state of mind, that he was de­ter­mined “to keep his oar in.”

The Judge said the de­fen­dant didn’t have any pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions and was oth­er­wise of good char­ac­ter.

Judge Kil­rane ap­plied the Pro­ba­tion Act and said he hoped the de­fen­dant would be able to re­solve his is­sues in a peace­ful man­ner.

The Judge added that he was sat­is­fied that Garda Lavin did an ex­cel­lent job in keep­ing the peace on the oc­ca­sion.

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