An AI technician in the agricultural industry from Mountrath has pleaded guilty to having in his possession nine silage wraps which were stolen in a burglary.
Today's Portlaoise District Court (Thursday, March 2) heard that Garret Kirwan (37), Ringstown, Mountrath, received the wraps from “three men in a van” in July, 2016.
Inspector Jer Glavin said that the wraps were part of property stolen in a burglary in June. Insp Glavin said that the accused had no connection to this offence. Insp Glavin told the court that the accused is not being investigated in relation to any other matters and no other charges are pending.
Barrister, Mr Colm Hennessy said that although no money changed hands, his client, a farmer, had agreed to pay €360 for the items, which was half the normal price.
Phone numbers were exchanged between the parties and the accused tried to contact the men twice after taking the wraps, said Mr Hennessy, but any time he rang a lady answered the phone and the three men never returned for payment.
Mr Hennessy said that the man his client took the wraps from had claimed to have sold 200 wraps elsewhere.
Mr Hennessy said that the accused was one of only five AI technicians in Laois, and at the moment “his reputation is in tatters”. He said that the accused’s bank had suspended his credit line pending the outcome of the gardaí’s investigation.
Mr Hennessy said it was widely known in the locality about the investigation and the matter had received a lot of attention, given the accused’s occupation.
Mr Hennessy asked the court to impose the probation act instead of a criminal conviction.
Defence said that the accused had €1,000 to offer the court, but Judge Mitchell rejected this.
“There’s a level of trust in the farming community and it’s considered a serious breach for items to be stolen, and then for other farmers to buy them,” said Judge Mitchell.
The judge said that a message had to go out, and ruled that he would deal with the matter by way of a fine.
However, Mr Hennessy asked the judge not to “use this case to signal a public deterrence”. He said that the accused’s “reputation is on the floor”.
“I don’t want Mr Kirwan to become the poster child for rural crime,” said Mr Hennessy.
“This offence is an attack on the agricultural industry and agricultural communities,” said Judge Mitchell.
He said that if there was no market for stolen goods there would be no stealing. Judge Mitchell convicted and fined the accused €720, the amount the bales were worth. Recognisance was fixed in the event of an appeal.
The judge said he very much regretted if this incident had affected the accused’s wife and children, and said he hoped the members of the farming community could remember the quote from the bible which said “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.