Court of Appeal

Leitrim man loses appeal over criminal damage to wind farm site

Three year jail sentence upheld

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Leitrim man loses appeal over criminal damage to wind farm site

A man jailed for damaging equipment used to build a wind farm in rural Roscommon has lost an appeal over attempts to change his plea from 'guilty' to 'not guilty'.

Conor Judge (31), with an address in Maynooth, Co Kildare, and originally from Kilnagross, Co. Leitrim, had pleaded guilty at Roscommon Circuit Criminal Court to two counts of theft and one count of criminal damage at a worksite connected to the construction of a wind farm near Arigna, Co. Roscommon on October 3, 2010.

Judge unsuccessfully sought to change his plea from 'guilty' to 'not guilty' before he was sentenced to three years imprisonment by Judge Keenan Johnson on December 16, 2016.

Refusing his application to change his guilty plea, the Circuit Court judge said the accused was an “unreliable witness” who had told “blatant lies” on a number of occasions.

The Court of Appeal upheld the refusal to set aside Judge’s guilty plea last Monday, July 16, and upheld his three year sentence.

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice John Edwards said the thefts related to an excavating bucket, a quick hitch and hydraulic ram at a worksite connected to the construction of a wind farm. The criminal damage related to damage done to the excavator in the unsuccessful attempt to remove further parts of it.

Judge was found at the scene and initially gave a false name to gardaí but upon realising he had been recognised by one of them, he elected to cooperate.

He was arrested and sent for forward for trial in the Circuit Court where he pleaded guilty while represented by solicitor and counsel.

Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Hedigan, said the Circuit Court judge was correct to treat Mr. Judge's testimony with the highest degree of scepticism and incredulity in circumstances where he had admitted to lying on oath in several respects.

Conor Judge also lost an appeal against the severity of his sentence with the Court of Appeal holding that it was “correct and proportionate.”

See tomorrow's Leitrim Observer for the full court report.