Man who removed roof not guilty of criminal damage, jury decides
A County Wexford businessman who removed the roof from a house during its construction over an unpaid account had a charge of criminal damage dismissed by a jury.
Colm Corrigan, of Screen, Castlebridge, pleaded not guilty before a jury of seven men and five women at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court, to removing a timber frame roof from a house at Cois na Stuthain, Coolgarrow, Enniscorthy, which was the property of Paul Byrne.
Prosecuting Counsel Paul Murray described Paul Byrne as a builder and developer, who also ran a motor sales business. He was developing a number of houses and employed a company trading under the name L&N, which is owned by a John Lawlor,
During the course of 2014 the accused man, Colm Corrigan, supplied building material to John Lawlor. Some of the material was collected while more was delivered to the site.
Mr Murray said when John Lawlor had not paid for the material, the accused decided to remove the material from the house, in the process absolutely destroying the roof.
Mr Murray also told the jury that Colm Corrigan got no permission from either John Lawlor or Paul Byrne to do this. Defence Counsel David Bulbulia said his instructions were to make two admissions to the court, firstly that the goods were sold but not paid for, and secondly the accused admitted to removing material from the roof.
In evidence, Paul Byrne said John Lawlor carried out the work on the construction of the houses. He also told the court of receiving a telephone call from a Marisa Byrne, wife of the accused Colm Corrigan, saying that material supplied to John Lawlor had not been paid for.
'I told her it had nothing to do with me, which I also told her on receipt of further phone calls. I spoke with Mr Lawor asking him to make contact with Marisa Byrne who said it would be done the next day,' said Paul Byrne in court.
Mr. Byrne also said in evidence he did not know Marisa Byrne and denied paying any account. He also denied giving anyone permission to remove the roof.
He said he roof was removed on one of the wettest days of the year, causing considerable internal damage to wooden floors, windows, and electric wiring.
Mr. Byrne said the cost of rebuilding the house after the removal of the timber frame roof came to €46,000.
Defence Counsel David Bulbulia told the witness he was aware of the difficulties between Mr Lawlor and the accused, who was left high and dry. Paul Byrne replied: 'it had nothing to do with me'.
John Lawlor, in evidence, said when he first started the work he paid for material by cash and credit card. He subsequently had a credit account, and owed approximately €3,000 to Colm Corrigan.
On the morning after the removal of the roof, Lawlor said he contacted the accused, who told him 'I am fed up with builders doing me over'.
John Lawlor also agreed with Mr Bulbulia that five cheques made payable to Colm Corrigan had not been honoured.
In evidence Marisa Byrne, wife of Colm Corrigan, told Mr Bulbulia that it was not true what Paul Byrne had said. He had paid an account and he also knew her as they were first cousins.
Ms Byrne said they ran a small, rural, family business. At the time the roof was removed times were extremely tough, adding that the amount of money owed by Mr Lawlor was in the region of €3,400.
She also told the court that John Lawlor never filled out a credit application form and did not have credit with them.
She stated that Paul Byrne had settled a previous account, denying what he said in evidence that he did not settle an account. She also said that she had rang Paul Byrne to let him know money was outstanding on the account of Mr Lawlor.
Ms Byrne also said that the goods were not paid for and still have not been paid for, replying to Mr. Bulbulia.
The jury, after an absence of just 23 minutes, returned a not guilty verdict on the criminal damage charge against the defendant.