Tuesday 12 December 2017

'Overwhelming' evidence as man found guilty of running shebeen


A DISTRICT Court Judge said he 'didn't believe a word' of evidence from a Ballycullane man who has been convicted of running a Shebeen.

John Murphy from Ballytarsna, Ballycullane, was before the court charged in relation to the operation of a shebeen at Tallaght, Saltmills, on July 4, 2010.

The defence argued that Mr. Murphy was having a Fourth of July party when Gardai searched the premises and anyone on the premises was a guest, friend or family member of the defendant, however Judge William Early pointed out that there was 'overwhelming' circumstantial evidence in the case.

The court heard that on May 26 that year Sgt. Bart Slattery and Inspector Mick Walsh visited the property after receiving information that the defendant was selling alcohol without a licence.

The court heard the defendant admitted selling drink but mainly to family and friends at cost price. Mr. Murphy was informed he was committing an offence, advised to stop selling without a licence and to dispose of the drink.

Inspector Walsh said that he told the defendant that if he got rid of the stock within three days that would be the end of the matter but if he continued to trade he would run the risk of prosecution.

However, between May 26 and July 1, Inspector Walsh said he received 'numerous complaints' from the public and a county delegation from the Vintners Association. Following this he obtained a search warrant on July 2.

The following night, around 11 p.m., he met his Garda colleagues and Senior Assistant Chief Fire Officer, John Maher, to search the premises, which was carried out at 2 a.m. Gardai had to park 80 metres off site and traverse through fields, as there were cameras on the gate, in order to access the premises.

Garda Dan Hayden explained that as they approached the premises the lights were turned off. ' I was of the opinion someone must have seen us coming...the door was locked but I could hear voices. I shouted 'Gardai, open the door'...waited about 60 seconds and shouted a warning that the door was to be forced in,' he explained.

The court heard an outhouse was converted to a bar with seating, a fridge, cooling system where some bottled beer was stored and optic taps were fixed.

There was also a laptop, showing CCTV footage of anyone who came to the defendant's gates.

The premises it was equipped like a 'pleasant country pub' added Garda Christopher Phelan, who said there was money in a container and asked some people present if they had paid but they all 'answered in the negative'.

Garda Niall O'donnell said he spoke to another five people and assisted in the removal of the drinks, which were presented before the court. He also asked about money on a table but told the court ' they weren't forthcoming with answers'.

His colleague Garda Derek Campion, who took note of the stock in the bar, found beer brochures and a log book with names and numbers. The people he was talking to said it was 'too dear to go to other premises in the area - it was cheaper to drink there'.

A Notice of Closure was served on the defendant by the Senior Assistant Chief Fire Officer, who said there were a number of anomalies with the building. He advised that the premises should remain unoccupied until the notice is revoked.

Weeks later on August 1, Garda James Farrell, who said he had received complaints from a number of people about drinking in the premises, stopped a car around 7 a.m., with four people inside at a checkpoint, which was around 500 meters from the defendant's premises. 'They were in a very drunken state and I contacted one of their parents to bring them home,' he said. He and Garda Ger Feeney also stopped a jeep which was carrying bottles of spirits as well as empty bottles of beer and cider.

In defence his Counsel said there was no reference by the Inspector that anyone paid for alcohol on the night - anyone on the premises that night was a guest, friend or family member.

'There is ample evidence to the effect that it's a private residence. They were guests on the premises,' he said, adding that the box of money found was used for playing poker and a deck of cards was found in the box when seized.

'With the alcohol itself the defendant accepted he had friends over and was having a party,' added the counsel.

The 52-year-old defendant told the court he never traded at any stage and was having a Fourth of July party on the night. He said he ' black denied' selling alcohol when the Gardai visited. Witness for the defence Mark Browne told the court that people brought their own drinks to the premises and weren't asked to pay for drink.

Judge Early said he did not believe the defendant, to which the counsel replied there was a 'distinct lack of evidence'.

The Judge pointed out that the circumstantial evidence was 'overwhelming' pointing out there was a log book, CCTV, a party on July 3 for the Fourth of July, Gardai were refused entry and the presence of money.

'I don't believe a word of the defendant's evidence. I believe he has been running a shebeen,' he said.

He imposed a €50 fine on Mr. Murphy for occupying an unlicensed drinking premises, contrary to the Intoxicating Liquor Act, ordered that the cash seized be forfeit and the alcohol be destroyed.

He fined him €2,500 and expenses of €100 for the Fire Officer for failing to comply with the requirements of a closure notice served on him under the Fire Services Act.

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