Man caught with stolen tractor given community service
A married father of three who was caught with a stolen tractor has been ordered to carry out community service instead of a jail term.
Jim Duffy (45) of Greyacre Road, Dundalk, Co Louth, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to being in possession of a stolen John Deere tractor between June and September 2013.
He has three minor convictions for road traffic offences.
The tractor, which was worth €50,000, had been stolen from a farm in Portlaoise during a burglary on May 29, 2013.
It had a front loader attached and details of the vehicle were circulated both within the gardaí and in the national farming media.
When it was ultimately discovered by gardaí on Duffy's farm in Hollywood Little, in Ballyboughal North Dublin, a number of the identifying features on the vehicle had either been altered or removed.
It also had a false UK registration plate fitted.
Duffy claimed that it had been left on his farm by another man who owed him money.
He told garda in interview he had never taken anything in his life and he was disappointed with himself.
“I am disgusted having come from a farming background,” he said.
Detective Garda Eugene O'Sullivan told Antonia Boyle BL, prosecuting, that the insurance company paid the owner €41,500 after it was stolen.
When it was ultimately returned they sold it back to the owner having fixed the various alterations.
Det Gda O'Sullivan said gardaí were never able to establish who Duffy got the tractor from.
Officers were unable to locate the man he claimed had left it on his farm, despite extensive enquiries.
Det Gda O'Sullivan agreed with Tony McGillicuddy BL, defending, that the prosecution accepted that Duffy didn't steal the tractor.
He further agreed that Duffy accepted in interview that it was a stolen tractor but said he “couldn't believe it”.
Det Gda O'Sullivan accepted that Duffy had not come to garda attention since.
Mr McGillicuddy said the farm had since been sold, Duffy having bought it about a year before his arrest. He was now involved in the furniture trade.
Judge Melanie Greally said the only reason she was not imposing an immediate custodial sentence was Duffy's lack of serious convictions.
She suspended a four year sentence and ordered Duffy to complete 240 hours community service.
Det Gda O'Sullivan said that they received confidential information in August 2013 that a tractor, similar to the stolen John Deere, was on Duffy's farm.
They were provided with the details of the registration plate which they later discovered belonged to a John Deere which was registered to a company in North Yorkshire.
The dealership later confirmed that they were in possession of the genuine UK tractor.
Gardaí later observed the tractor working on numerous occasions on the farm in Hollywood Little.
The farm was searched in September 2013 and officers spoke to a man who was feeding cattle using the John Deere.
The man said he worked on a part-time basis for Duffy and said his employer owned the tractor.
The tractor was seized and forensically examined the following day. The chassis number had been erased and re-stamped with a false number.
The chassis number matched that of the UK tractor. It had been obtained from an online advertisement but the dealership had made an error in one digit of the chassis number.
The copied chassis number had the same mistake.
Det Gda O'Sullivan said a John Deere engineer later carried out a diagnostic download of the “brain” of the tractor and confirmed it was the stolen vehicle.
Duffy was interviewed in November 2013. He claimed that a man who had left in on his farm was going to collect it later and take it away.
Duffy told gardaí he never gave permission for anyone to use the tractor and said the only day it was used on the farm was the day the gardaí raided it.
Det Gda O'Sullivan said there was evidence that the vehicle had been loaned to an agricultural company which Duffy owed money to.
He said everyone regarded the tractor as Duffy' s and he was satisfied it was being used regularly.