Two men who were charged after a concrete block was thrown through a house door because a witness declared in a statement he was “100 per cent” sure it was them, both walked free from court this week (June 1 ) after the witness became “reluctant” and contradicted his statement in the witness box.
“I am not satisfied the last witness hasn’t been got at,” said Judge Seamus Hughes after hearing the evidence, and despite Inspector Aidan Minnock telling the court that relatives of the victim’s family were told that “the Courtneys would be taken out of their house in a box, and their children in a white box”, the judge was left with no option but to dismiss the case.
Before the court were Oliver West (28 ) of 4, Montree, and Stephen Gavin (27 ) from Battery Heights, Athlone, and both were pleading not guilty to the charge of criminal damage after the block was put through the front door of Louise Courtney’s house, also in Battery Heights, in the early hours of July 26.
Ms Courtney told the court how Oliver West was in dispute with her brother. She had been away from her house on the night in question when she was called after the incident by one of her three sons, one of whom declared in a statement given to gardaí on September 6 that he was “100 per cent sure” the perpetrators were the defendants - West and Gavin.
However, when the 17-year-old was called to give evidence in court this week, Inspector Aidan Minnock described him as “reluctant”, and told the judge he was only appearing after being told he would be arrested if he didn’t.
The teenager told how he was “half drunk” on the night in question and had been “up and down the stairs all night”, and on one of these trips he heard a bang. Going to his room he looked out and saw people outside.
“I thought I knew who they were at the time but afterward people were telling me who they were,” said the teen.
“In your statement you said you were ‘100 per cent sure’ it was Stephen Gavin and Oliver West,” said Inspector Minnock to the teenage witness.
“Everybody was telling me at the time it was them that broke the window. I found out it wasn’t them and I tried to retract my statement,” said the boy.
In his statement, the inspector pointed out, the boy said he knew Oliver West “well”, while in court this week he said he knew Gavin since he was a child and that he’d even been on holiday with him.
“So in the statement of September 6 you told lies, basically misled the Guards?” asked Inspector Minnock.
“Basically, yeah,” said the teenager.
Judge Hughes asked the inspector why he initially described his witness as “reluctant” and he told the judge: “I’ve become aware of threats and intimidation to relations of the Courtney family”.
“They were told the Courtneys would be taken out of their house in a box and the children would be taken out in a white box. The person was asked to relay this threat to Louise Courtney,” said the inspector.
The defending solicitor, Mr Tony McLynn, vehemently denied his clients had any information in relation to this allegation, but Judge Hughes pointed out that no charges had been pressed yet as this “only happened yesterday”.
Returning to the witness box, Ms Courtney told the court: “It only costs €200 to have someone taken out the bog and have their legs broken”.
“I’m not satisfied the last witness hasn’t been got at...but I won’t be convicting your clients. I’m dismissing the case,” the judge told Mr McLynn.