Tullamore court house had to be evacuated last Monday morning after an alarm sounded
THE Tullamore businessman who produced a steel tube during a dispute with another man over a €140,000 debt heard last week he might escape a conviction if the related civil case is settled.
Judge Catherine Staines told Seamus Kane, Holmshill, Blueball, Tullamore, that she was considering applying the Probation Act but was not yet in a position to do so.
Mr Kane, 55, was found guilty in July of producing an article capable of inflicting injury and likely to intimidate another, in the course of a dispute at Palfinger Ireland Ltd, Church Road, Tullamore on June 28, 2019.
A day-long hearing had been told that the owner of a Cork shopfitting business, Eamon Brien, had called to Mr Kane's premises in Tullamore to discuss a €140,000 debt for work his company had done on the Spar store on the Arden Road.
Words were exchanged during an argument and Mr Kane was seen on CCTV footage holding the tube, remonstrating with Mr Brien and then throwing it away.
Judge Staines adjourned sentencing for Mr Kane to engage with the restorative justice service and having read the service's report last week, she said the accused had co-operated fully.
Mr Kane had written a full letter of apology to the injured party Mr Brien, and following a request from Mr Brien that a donation be made to charity, the accused had donated €1,000 to the Offaly Domestic Violence Support Service.
Alan Toal, BL, for Mr Kane, told Judge Staines that his instructing solicitor, Patrick Fox, Hoey & Denning, Tullamore, was holding €80,000 on account in relation to what his client would say was the differential between what is owed to the claimant and what was outstanding.
He said the issue was in relation to remedial works which had to be undertaken. Mr Brien said over €140,000 was owed to him and Mr Kane had paid a €45,000 deposit.
He said experts would have to be engaged to resolve the issues but on the matter before the District Court, Mr Kane wanted to demonstrate that he had listened very carefully to what the judge had previously said, hence the decision to hold the €80,000 on account towards the resolution they were hoping for.
Mr Toal said his client was going beyond what was in the restorative justice report and was looking at the matter in “totality”.
Mr Toal confirmed the civil action had not yet been resolved but he hoped it would be in time.
In the meantime, Mr Kane's legal team wanted Judge Staines to know they had embraced everything she had said at the previous hearing very seriously because a conviction would be very serious for the accused.
Judge Staines was told Mr Kane travels a lot for his business and a conviction would be “catastrophic” for him.
Mr Toal said there was no suggestion that he was trying to buy his way out of trouble but rather he was demonstrating that he had complied with everything the court had indicated.
He asked Judge Staines to be as lenient as she possibly could be and assured the court that Mr Kane would not be seen in court again for anything other than licensing matters.
Judge Staines said she was anxious that the civil dispute would be settled because such cases could “go on for years and years and years”.
However, she said she could indicate to Mr Kane that he would be left without a conviction if the civil matter was resolved because that was “the background to the whole thing”.
The court was then told by Mr Fox that the civil case was scheduled for mention in the High Court on October 18.
Mr Fox said he was waiting on a report on the remedial works and then talks would take place with the other side.
Judge Staines said she would put the matter back and once the civil case was settled “fairly between the parties” she would apply Section 1.1. of the Probation of Offenders Act.
She said the victim had requested through the restorative justice process that the civil matter would be resolved.
Adjourning finalisation of the matter to December 8, Judge Staines said: “The sooner it's settled, the sooner this will be over.”
Application of the Probation Act means that while a charge has been proved, the accused person is left without a conviction.
At the hearing in July, after Mr Kane had pleaded not guilty, Mr Brien told the District Court he had been abused verbally over the phone by the accused about the debt arising from the shopfitting work in Tullamore in 2018 and numerous meetings had been cancelled.
He said he then called to Mr Kane's place of business to discuss the debt but was told by the other man to “Get the f... out of here” and was threatened by Mr Kane as he stood less than two feet away from him with an iron bar.
Mr Brien also said he had previously worked with Mr Kane on a Spar shop at Patrick Street in Tullamore for a “smaller contract” in the order of €25,000 and everything went very well and it was done properly and paid for; unlike the second job, which was done properly and not paid for.
In his evidence, Mr Kane said he had been working in his workshop's steel cutting area when Mr Brian called and though he did get annoyed and angry, he denied holding a bar over Mr Brien's head.
The background to the dispute over the amount owed was that Mr Brien's workers were still on site after the store opened and in January 2019 Storefit was told of different issues and meetings took place with a Spar representative and with Insomnia because the Insomnia coffee station was fitted the wrong way around.
Mr Kane said he had no problem if Mr Brien repaired what had not been done and quantified what he was owed.
Mr Kane said a civil case had been taken against himself and Cayenne Holdings, a development company of his which rents his properties out.
Mr Kane said he had a lot of businesses and probably turned “around close to €30m a year” and had a lot of suppliers to pay but on the first Thursday of each month himself and his partner did the cheque run.
Mr Kane denied telling Mr Brien to “f... off out of the premises” and instead had said “Can you please leave?” and pointed to the door.
Though she did not believe Mr Kane intended to assault Mr Brien, Judge Staines said she believed the accused had the tube and banged it down during what was a highly aggressive encounter.
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