AN Erris native who was accused of stealing a two-way radio from a security guard working on a Corrib Gas Project site was cleared of the charge after the judge found there was not enough evidence to prosecute.
Iollan Ó Mongáin of Tullaghan, Doohoma, was cleared of the charge at last week’s sitting of Castlebar Circuit Court after his counsel successfully claimed that the evidence did not show that consent to take the radio had not been given.
Mr Ó Mongáin (24), a Civil Engineer graduate and son of prominent Shell to Sea campaigner Maura Harrington, was arrested on July 29 last at Aughoose, Pollathomas, after he was accused of stealing a two-way radio that a security guard dropped during a scuffle with protesters outside a Corrib Gas Project site.
Mr Ó Mongáin denied the charge, and his counsel argued he was immediately arrested after picking up the radio when looking for his own mobile phone.
Garda Justin Browne told the court that he was on duty when a scuffle broke out between protesters and IRMS security at 12.05pm. He said he saw a security guard drop a radio and saw Mr Ó Mongáin pick it up, conceal it and run away. Garda Browne said he immediately ran across the road after him, apprehended him and arrested him.
Mr Leo Mulrooney, counsel for Mr Ó Mongáin, said his client did not try to flee but was immediately arrested after picking up the radio and dragged across the road by Garda Browne. When this was put to Garda Browne, he replied ‘No Judge, I followed him, he ran.’
Garda video footage of the incident, which was shown to the court, indicated that Mr Ó Mongáin was apprehended after picking up the radio. When it was again put to Garda Browne that Mr Ó Mongáin did not try to flee, the garda said he did not realise he was close by to him, but he insisted that Mr Ó Mongáin did try to flee.
Evidence was also heard from the security guard who dropped the radio, who said the radio was secured to his belt before the scuffle and that he did not realise that he had lost it until the Gardaí informed him, at which point he confirmed the radio was his.
In the absence of the jury, Mr Mulrooney applied for a direction on the ground there was no evidence before the court that showed that the security guard did not consent to the property being taken. He said one of the provisions of the Criminal Justice Theft and Fraud Offences Act was to prove that consent was not given.
Mr Patrick Reynolds, counsel for the prosecution, argued that in the security guard’s evidence it was clear that he dropped the radio, and that it was a matter for the jury to decide.
However, Judge Thomas E O’Donnell said the onus was on the state to prove the change brought against the defendant and there was not sufficient evidence on the matter of consent, and he directed the jury to acquit Mr Ó Mongáin of the charge.