A father-of-seven who told gardaí he thought he was attending a job interview but ended up taking part in a violent forced eviction has been jailed for three years.
Desmond McGrath (50) was part of a gang of seven men, including convicted murderer Declan Duffy and INLA kidnapper Dessie O'Hare, also known as “The Border Fox”, who falsely imprisoned and tried to evict a family from their home.
McGrath also took part in the assault of a security guard who became involved in the incident, punching and kicking the man.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that five of the men involved, including O'Hare and Duffy, were convicted in the Special Criminal Court in 2019. The court heard that O'Hare and Duffy were “the ringleaders” of the events.
Following his arrest, McGrath told gardaí that before he arrived at the scene he had been told he was attending a job interview for security work. The court heard McGrath was dressed “almost as a bouncer” for that reason at the time of the offences.
McGrath of Cushlawn Park, Tallaght pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm of John Roche at The Towers, Garter Lane, Saggart, on June 9, 2015.
He also pleaded guilty to the false imprisonment of both Martin Byrne and Lisa Byrne at the same address on the same date. His 11 previous convictions include larceny and road traffic offences.
Passing sentencing on Wednesday, Judge Karen O'Connor said the offence was aggravated by the “level of violence” against the security guard and the impact the offence had on the family who were falsely imprisoned.
Judge O'Connor said the mitigating factors were McGrath's guilty plea, his admissions, his remorse, his difficult background and his efforts to rehabilitate from drug and alcohol addiction.
She said a distinction could be made between himself and others who took part in the offences. She sentenced McGrath to four years imprisonment, but suspended the final 12 months of the sentence on strict conditions.
At a previous sentencing hearing, Sergeant Eamon O'Neill told Garret Baker BL, prosecuting, that Mr Byrne had worked in the security industry for 25 years prior to the events in June 2015.
Mr Byrne was employed as head of security of the Mansfield Group which ran various properties such as Citywest Hotel.
Sgt O'Neill said that on the date in question, Mr Byrne attended an office in which O'Hare was present. They were joined by Duffy and five more men arrived including McGrath.
Mr Byrne was told by O'Hare that his services were no longer required and that he was to immediately vacate the property at Garter Lane where he had been residing with his family as part of his employment arrangement.
Mr Byrne said that if he was given 24 hours he could move his family and his possessions out of the property, but this offer was rejected. He tried to leave of his own accord but he was surrounded, grabbed and bundled into a car by the men.
When they arrived at the property the security gates would not open and Mr Byrne was told he would be brought to “another place” if they did not open. Out of fear for his safety, Mr Byrne suggested driving through the gates, which they proceeded to do.
Mr Roche was working as a security guard at the scene and came to see who was at the gate. The group of men then began punching, kicking and stamping on him.
The court heard that the other men had begun the assault when McGrath joined in, punching and kicking Mr Roche before stepping away.
McGrath went upstairs with Mr Byrne's son when they arrived at the property and monitored his movement in the house, but he did not perpetrate any physical violence against him or any member of the Byrne family.
Mr Byrne pleaded to let his family go, after which O'Hare made a remark to Ms Byrne along the lines of “say a prayer”. Mr Roche was picked up from the ground around this point and brought into one of the adjacent properties.
Mr Byrne was told to go into the same house where he observed Mr Roche in a chair covered in blood. He was told that Mr Roche would be dropped to a hospital when they were finished but that Mr Byrne would not need a hospital.
Mr Byrne was then pulled into a chair and struck several times to the head. Gardaí arrived at the scene and Mr Byrne was told by O'Hare if he did not get rid of them “he would get a bullet in the head”.
Mr Byrne attempted to tell gardaí that everything was okay, but they saw he was shaken and had injuries and that his family were in a distressed state. The seven men left and were arrested at later intervals.
A medical certificate submitted to court stated that Mr Roche sustained multiple injuries as a result of the assault, including fractures to his right forearm and his nasal bone. Mr Roche did not make a statement to gardaí.
The court heard that Mr Byrne and his family have been in the Witness Protection Programme since the events in June 2015.
McGrath was arrested in Dublin city centre in April 2019. He was the only one of his co-accused to make admissions and he gave an account of his actions, but did not give any details regarding anyone else.