Court of Appeal, Dublin
A father of four who turned his car into a “battering ram” when he deliberately crashed the vehicle into the front of the family home while his wife and young children were inside has lost his appeal against conviction.
William Harty (31) caused more than €50,000 worth of damage when he drove his car into the house at Kilmanagh, Co Kilkenny.
He later pleaded not guilty to endangerment and criminal damage at his home address during the early hours of January 22, 2020.
But a jury found him guilty of the charges following a trial at Kilkenny Circuit Criminal Court and in October 2020 he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment by Judge Cormac Quinn.
Harty later launched an appeal against the conviction, with his lawyers arguing that evidence from a 999 call made by his wife should not have been presented to the jury.
It was also argued that the crime scene had not been properly preserved by gardai when they first arrived at the house.
However, the Court of Appeal has dismissed the appeal on all grounds.
In a judgement delivered today (Thursday) by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, sitting with Court President Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, the three-judge court said the trial judge had been correct to accept the 999 call as evidence.
Mr Justice McCarthy said the issue of whether the phone call to the emergency services should go before the jury had been discussed in a voire dire – a trial within a trial where evidence is heard in the absence of the jury – ahead of proceedings.
“We have no doubt in thinking that the judge was right to find that the evidence [of the 999 call] was admissible,” Mr Justice McCarthy said.
“It is plain from his ruling that the judge addressed the issue of the preservation of the crime scene,” he also added.
At a pervious hearing on January 28 last, Kathleen Leader SC, for Harty, said the contents of the 999 call were not “real evidence” and should be regarded as hearsay.
Ms Leader also said that a comparison of garda photographs of the damage to the house taken shortly after the incident with photographs taken hours later clearly indicated the crime scene had not been preserved.
Garret Baker BL, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, argued that while there might have been some “evidential infirmity” in the case this had not “had any practical effect on the outcome”.
Mr Baker also said that the statement Ms Harty later gave to gardai “in broad terms mirrored” the 999 call.
The appellant, counsel continued, had later expressed his remorse for using his car as a “mechanically powered battering ram” against the family home while his children – all of whom were under eight years of age at the time – were inside with their mother.
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