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Union Hall landlord used a JCB to bury ex-tenant’s car

June 5th, 2024 8:00 AM

Union Hall landlord used a JCB to bury ex-tenant’s car Image

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A LANDLORD who used a JCB to bury a car belonging to a former tenant has paid her €1,000 compensation.

Colin O’Sullivan, who owns a home at Carrigillihy, Union Hall, but is currently living in a motor home, agreed to pay the money to Gabriela Lake.

The payment was made after Judge James McNulty at Skibbereen District Court gave him the benefit of a conditional discharge, which means he was not convicted of a charge of causing criminal damage between October 5th and December 28th.

The accused has, however, agreed to enter into a bond to be of good behaviour for a period of two years.

John Devlin, the barrister acting for Colin O’Sullivan, acknowledged that his client had made a statement of admission to the investigating garda and, in his own evidence in court, the accused admitted he removed the car because it had remained, idle and with the grass growing up through it, for about four years.

The court was told that the car, a Chrysler Voyager, was registered in 2006 to the tenant’s husband, who died in 2019, but it had remained parked outside the house at Carrigillihy for sentimental reasons.

John Devlin, instructed by Kay Toher solicitor, produced a motor assessor’s report, which said the car was of zero value.

The accused told the court that he drained the oil and disposed of it responsibly at a facility at Keelbeg Pier in Union Hall, as well as giving the battery to a garage for recycling, before loading it onto a trailer and burying it in ground he owns in Castlehaven.

Both Gabriela Lake, as a witness for the prosecution, and Colin O’Sullivan, made several statements in relation to a landlord and tenant dispute that was ruled on – twice in favour of Gabriela Lake – by the Residential Tenancies Board, but Judge McNulty asked them to confine their evidence to the alleged criminal damage charge.

Gabriela Lake said the accused had prevented her daughter from entering the property in 2022 to collect her belongings, and that she, with the assistance of family friends, had managed to take only some of her belongings – including her late husband’s ashes – out of the house after Colin O’Sullivan had changed the locks and moved back in.

Colin O’Sullivan claimed he had sent several WhatsApp messages to the tenant terminating the tenancy, but she had not responded.

He said she was living in the US at the time because she was having problems renewing her three-month visa to remain in Ireland.

The accused admitted burying the Chrysler – which had four flat tyres, a flat battery and brakes that were seized – because he needed to create access to the house for rental purposes.

The accused made a further admission of burying some of the tenant’s belongings, and he said he had agreed to pay the €18,500 tenancy board award as part of a payment plan.

The accused told the court he had terminated the tenancy agreement – a contract was drawn up by a solicitor but was never signed by the parties – because rent was in arrears for four months, the tenant was no longer in the property having returned to the US, and because of alleged damaged caused by the tenant’s two dogs, claiming it took him seven months to get the smell of dog urine out of the house.

The court was told that another car, a Fiat, had been moved to a field at the rear of the property and it had burned out.

Colin O’Sullivan wasn’t charged with that offence and he said the first he knew about it was when a neighbour rang to say the house was on fire, but when he checked, he discovered it was the car.

In cross-examination by Insp Roisin O’Dea, the accused acknowledged that the Chrysler did not belong to him, and that he did not have permission to remove it, bury it, and back-fill the hole.

In his summary of the case, Judge James McNulty noted the accused’s admissions, but he also said the owner of the car was neglectful of her obligations.

‘He had no right to dispose of this vehicle, even if it was causing an obstruction and was an eyesore,’ said the judge. ‘He could have moved it elsewhere to a distant part of the property.

‘By burying it in a hole, he took a liberty,’ said the judge. ‘It may have had little or no financial value, but it had a value to Gabriela Lake.’

Noting that the accused had no previous convictions, and had to deal with a cancer diagnosis and treatment on several occasions, Judge McNulty said he would give him the benefit of a conditional discharge on the basis that he would keep the peace for the next two years, and pay Gabriela Lake €1,000.

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