A 68-year-old man who denies deliberately producing a shotgun to a site surveyor working for a subcontractor of Irish Water, was found not guilty at Dundalk Circuit Court last week by direction of the trial judge.
Sean McCaul of Home Farm, Townparks, Ardee had pleaded not guilty to producing a Parker double barrel shotgun in a manner likely to intimidate at the same address on October 28, 2014.
The alleged injured party told the jury at the start of the trial last Tuesday that he had walked up and down the side of the road looking for a stop-cock outside the property but he couldn’t find it and was putting that update into his computer tablet with his head down, when he was confronted by the property owner with a shotgun ‘over his arm’.
The witness – who stressed that the weapon was not pointed directly at him but was leaning over Sean McCaul’s arm, told the jury “I said Whoa...I’m just doing a job.”
He said he left the scene and contacted his manager who then notified the gardai.
The witness – who said he was “shook up” by what happened agreed with the Defence during cross examination that information sent to households by Irish Water had advised them that survey staff would not enter private property.
He said he had not received any training on the sensitivities of people living on their own in rural Ireland and he agreed the location was not somewhere where you “would just be walking by”.
The witness also confirmed he had not notified the accused of his presence by calling to his door and that there were no markings on his van to identify who he was working for.
When the Defence counsel pointed out that in his garda statement which was made at the time, he said he had found the stop-cock, the witness said he must have been typing the information from it into the tablet.
He denied having been inside the boundary of the defendant’s property – saying there was no reason to go there when the information he needed was on the road.
The Defence barrister told the court that her client was carrying the gun as part of his normal routine and it was not a case that he came out with a shotgun to confront the site surveyor.
She put it to the witness that Sean McCaul had been holding the shotgun by the stock and it was facing down towards the ground. However, the witness insisted the shotgun was leaning over the defendant’s arm.
The designated firearms officer for the Ardee Garda District, outlined the guidelines which applied at the time, including that when carried, a shotgun should be broken and in a v-shape with the barrels pointed down.
He agreed with the Defence that such licence holders are entitled to shoot game birds and pests – including crows.
On the second day of the trial, the investigating garda told the jury that after taking a statement of complaint from the site surveyor he called to the defendant’s home and asked to see his licenced shotgun.
The garda was invited inside and the accused handed him the shotgun which was locked and loaded with two cartridges.
The garda also told the jury that the accused was ‘very clear’ that he lived alone and was fearful, having heard that there were a lot of burglaries in the area.
The court further heard that the defendant looked physically drained at the time and the Garda recommended that he get legal advice.
During his formal garda interview, Sean McCaul said the complainant – was wearing a hoodie and was within the boundary of his property and he said he had absolutely no idea of who he was, other than he believed he was “a burglar or an intruder of some sort”.
The defendant referred to the Irish Water information leaflet, which said its staff would not encroach on private property. He claimed he did not deliberately come out of the house but had walked out to shoot crows “to have a bit of practice and get rid of them”.
He said that was part of his daily routine in order to protect his crop and he would load it inside his house and put the safety catch on.
When he was asked if he had any intention to confront the man that morning just because he was on his property, the accused replied: “Really, no”.
The jury heard the accused has only come to garda attention, in terms of applying for his firearms licence and reporting a crime as a witness.
The investigating garda confirmed to the Defence during cross-examination, that Sean McCaul was not a water protester or trying to stop the installation of a water metre.
Following legal argument, at the end of the trial Judge Gerard Griffin, directed the jury foreman to record a not guilty verdict.