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On trial Businessman Jim Mansfield Jnr 'effectively delivered' man to kidnappers, court hears

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Jim Mansfield Jnr

Jim Mansfield Jnr

Jim Mansfield Jnr

Businessman Jim Mansfield Jnr "effectively delivered" a longtime employee, who is now in the Witness Protection Programme, into the arms of a group of men who falsely imprisoned him and his family, a prosecution barrister has told the non-jury Special Criminal Court.

Mr Mansfield (53), of Tasaggart House, Garters Lane, Saggart, Co Dublin, is on trial at the Special Criminal Court charged with conspiracy to commit false imprisonment and with attempting to pervert the course of justice five years ago.

The accused man is charged with conspiring with one or more persons to falsely imprison Martin Byrne on a date unknown between January 1, 2015 and June 30, 2015, both dates inclusive. This is contrary to Section 71 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.

He is also charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice by directing Patrick Byrne to destroy recorded CCTV footage, with the alleged intention of perverting the course of public justice in relation to the false imprisonment of Martin Byrne at Finnstown House Hotel, Newcastle Road, Lucan, Co Dublin between June 9, 2015 and June 12, 2015.

Mr Mansfield has pleaded not guilty to both counts on the indictment.

Dressed in a black-coloured suit, white shirt and dark tie, Mr Mansfield attended the three-judge court today with two members of his family.

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Jim Mansfield Jnr

Jim Mansfield Jnr

Jim Mansfield Jnr

Opening the State's case today, Shane Costelloe SC told the non-jury court that all the allegations pertain to events in or around June 9, 2015.

Outlining the facts of the case, Mr Costelloe said the State alleges that Martin Byrne, his wife Lisa Byrne and their son Brandon Byrne were falsely imprisoned by a group of men on this date. "By way of background, these men have all since been dealt with by this court," he added.

Detailing the evidence that will be heard, Mr Costelloe said it is alleged that Martin Byrne was "effectively delivered up" by Mr Mansfield into the arms of a group of men who falsely imprisoned him and ultimately also falsely imprisoned his wife and son.

The prosecution barrister told the court that on or about the relevant time, Martin Byrne worked primarily in the role of a security expert for the accused. "He had been employed by the Mansfield family under the guise of one of their businesses for over a decade prior to this event," outlined Mr Costelloe.

Martin Byrne had begun working for Mr Mansfield Snr and continued to work for the family after Mr Mansfield Snr passed away in 2014. Martin Byrne was permitted to reside at a converted stables at the back of Tasaggart House, which is also referred to as "The Towers", he noted.

Mr Costelloe said the evidence will be that Martin Byrne lived in two of the units at The Towers with his family. The Mansfield Group got into some financial difficulties around the time of the last recession in 2011 and a number of properties held by the group were in or going into receivership, he said.

There will be evidence, the court heard, that Martin Byrne continued to work for the receiver Martin Ferris, the accused man and other members of the Mansfield family.

"There were ongoing efforts by the children of Mr Mansfield Snr to get back some of these assets that had gone into receivership in previous years," said Mr Costelloe. However, a disagreement developed between the Mansfield family and another man. The State's witness, Martin Byrne, was asked to assist Mr Mansfield to try and resolve the dispute and try to gain control of the properties this other man had.

The court heard further evidence will be that Martin Byrne attended a meeting in May 2015 at the request of the accused, where he met Dessie O'Hare and Declan Duffy.

"In the witness's own words, that was an aborted meeting and it ended very quickly as the accused and Martin Byrne left," he said.

Mr Costelloe also indicated to the judges that Martin Byrne was contacted on a number of occasions by Mr Mansfield in June 2015, asking him to attend another meeting so that issues could be resolved but this time was told that only Dessie O'Hare would be there. Counsel said the court will hear that Martin Byrne will say that he was reluctant to attend but he went anyway.

The barrister further stated that Martin Byrne went to the home of Mr Mansfield on June 9 and met with the accused. They both then travelled to a warehouse at Keatings Park. Mr Mansfield does not dispute going to Keatings Park with Martin Byrne that morning but he does dispute what is alleged to have happened on their arrival there, said Mr Costelloe.

Counsel said the court will hear that on arrival at Keatings Park Martin Byrne was accompanied by the accused into an office, where he was immediately confronted by Dessie O'Hare and Declan Duffy. It is alleged that one of the two men turned to Mr Mansfield at one point and said "your work here is done" and the accused then left the room, said counsel.

Mr Costelloe said that Martin Byrne will give evidence that there were was a "heated conversation" between himself, Dessie O'Hare and Declan Duffy at this point, during which it was expressed to him that he was to immediately vacate the premises at The Towers where he and his family had been permitted to live until then.

Martin Byrne told them that he was willing to leave if he could be given 24 hours but he was then "set upon" by another five men who were "lying in wait" for him downstairs, said the lawyer. "Those seven men restrained Martin Byrne and didn't allow him to leave and put him into the back of a car and drove to The Towers," he continued.

CCTV footage, the court heard, will show what had transpired at The Towers. Ultimately in what appeared to be a stroke of good fortune, a member of An Garda Siochana was in the area and Martin Byrne, who was being held against his will, was told to go out and get rid of the gardai but instead told the garda what was going on, said Mr Costelloe.

Some of the seven men who had abducted Martin Byrne fled the scene and others were arrested. The non-jury court will see CCTV footage which the State says was taken a number of minutes after gardai arrived at Finnstown House, which shows Dessie O'Hare and Declan Duffy trying to get pass a security gate at the side of the property and then driving the same model of a car, which the accused and Martin Byrne had driven to Keatings Park earlier that day in, explained counsel. "Mr Mansfield does not deny being in the company of Martin Byrne that morning but says the rest of it is incorrect," said Mr Costelloe.

The barrister said that the second count against Mr Mansfield alleges that he and another person approached Patrick Byrne, the brother of Martin Byrne, who was responsible for maintaining the CCTV footage from Finnstown House.

Mr Costelloe said that Patrick Byrne will say that Mr Mansfield told him to destroy a hard drive upon which the CCTV footage was captured during the course of that day and the accused man did not explain what his reasons were for this request.

"Patrick Byrne had some awareness of the incident and rather than destroy it, he surreptitiously removed it and replaced it with a different unit. The court will also hear evidence that as Patrick Byrne was looking at the CCTV footage, he noticed Dessie O'Hare and Declan Duffy trying to get past the security gate and he took a picture of the image on his mobile phone, which was given to gardai," said counsel.

He explained that the State’s case would be that Mr Mansfield tried to destroy CCTV footage knowing it was potentially highly inculpatory as a result of the earlier incident of false imprisonment. The accused man was interviewed under caution five months later in December 2015 and did not dispute the fact that he knew Martin Byrne and Patrick Byrne but absolutely denied that he had "set up" Martin Byrne on the morning of June 9 and that he had got Patrick Byrne to do anything to support the allegation in the second count, concluded Mr Costelloe.

Following the opening Mr Justice Alexander Owens presiding, with Judge Sinead Ni Chulachain and Judge James Faughnan, adjourned the trial until 2pm.

In April 2019, former INLA man Dessie O'Hare, who was known as "The Border Fox", was jailed by the Special Criminal Court for three years for assaulting John Roche and ten years with three suspended for the rest of his life for falsely imprisoning Martin Byrne. The sentences were to run concurrently. The 63-year-old, of Slate Rock Road, Newtownhamilton, County Armagh, admitted to assaulting Mr Roche, causing him harm, at The Towers, Garter Lane, Saggart, County Dublin on June 9th, 2015. O'Hare also pleaded guilty to falsely imprisoning Martin Byrne at Rathcoole and Saggart on the same date.

Former Republican paramilitary Declan "Whacker" Duffy was sentenced by the Special Criminal Court to six years imprisonment in 2018 after pleading guilty to assaulting John Roche, causing him harm, at The Towers, Garter Lane, Saggart, County Dublin on June 9, 2015. He also admitted falsely imprisoning Martin Byrne at Rathcoole/Saggart on the same date.

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