A man who was seen, followed, reported, and arrested with a stolen silage grab in his vehicle, but who insisted on still pleading not guilty at 11 appearances in court, was jailed for five months this week (November 13).
John Wilkinson (52), a farmer from Knocknadogue, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny was charged with one other man - already convicted - for the theft of a silage grab from a field in Lecarrow, Athlone, on the evening of June 8, 2012.
When Inspector Nicholas Farrell outlined the State’s case before formally calling his three witnesses, Judge Seamus Hughes turned to Wilkinson and asked: “Why are you fighting this case? Why have you brought all these hard-working people to court?”
“I was only obliging the other gentleman,” said Wilkinson about his co-defendant.
“He’s getting advice from someone else. My instructions remain steadfast to plead not guilty,” Wilkinson’s solicitor, Mr Padraig Quinn explained very professionally.
He explained how his client was bringing the other man to Castlerea Prison for a monthly sign-on as part of his terms of temporary release, when this other man saw the scrap metal “on the side of the road and lifted it into the van himself”.
“One man lifted that in?” said an incredulous judge, pointing at the photograph of the item the inspector had handed in as evidence.
“The man with me was a young strong man. I wouldn’t have much call for a back rake,” Wilkinson contended.
“You would have call for a back rake. You’re a farmer,” thundered the judge, before offering Mr Quinn one more chance to change the plea for a lesser sentence. When Wilkinson refused again, the judge called the first witness.
Fergal Kelly, who knows the injured party, told how he had been driving past on the day in question when he saw a van in a field he knew to belong to Peter Graven.
He told how there were two men lifting the grab into the van, and that they would have had to open two gates to access this.
He then rang Mr Graven with the van’s details, and followed it until gardaí stopped it at Ganlys hardware store on the Roscommon Road.
Mr Graven then gave evidence identifying the equipment, and attested to its weight, while Detective Garda Padraig Hession told of the arrest, and that the co-defendant has already served six months for the offence.
“It took two of us to load it, judge,” said Det Garda Hession.
The inspector showed photos of the field to the judge and told him: “You’d pass this field most days”.
“According to the Phoenix magazine I’m going so fast I’d never see it,” quipped Judge Hughes, before declaring it a prima facie (at face value) case.
After hearing Wilkinson had 24 previous convictions, 11 of which were for theft, Judge Hughes told him he had “brazenly procastinated in court” and sentenced him to five months in jail.
“I know you’re in a bad place, but I know you’re a bumbling fool of a criminal,” said the judge