Property magnate Jim Mansfield Jnr, who ordered the destruction of CCTV footage showing him with his former employee on the morning he was kidnapped by republican terrorists Dessie O’Hare and Declan ‘Whacker’ Duffy, has been jailed by the Special Criminal Court for 18 months.
Sentencing Mansfield Jnr at the three-judge court today, presiding judge Mr Justice Alexander Owens said the actions of the convicted man fell into the category of “foolish and selfish criminality, whose efforts did not succeed”.
The non-jury court found that when Mansfield Jnr ordered the CCTV footage to be destroyed, he knew there would be a major criminal investigation including an examination of his role in these events.
“He did it to distance himself from any involvement with Declan Duffy and Dessie O’Hare and to hide his association with gangsters,” added Mr Justice Owens.
Last month, the convicted man was taken into custody after he was found guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice by directing Patrick Byrne to destroy recorded CCTV footage showing Mansfield Jnr with his former employee Martin Byrne departing from Finnstown Park Hotel, Newcastle Road, Lucan, Co Dublin on June 9th 2015, when Mr Byrne was later kidnapped by former terrorists Dessie O’Hare and Declan ‘Whacker’ Duffy.
Delivering judgement at the non-jury court on January 17th, presiding judge Mr Justice Alexander Owens said that the evidence established to the requisite standard of proof that Mansfield “was prepared to hinder an investigation into very serious criminal activity” by instructing Patrick Byrne to destroy a CCTV hard drive.
He added: “This direction was given by James Mansfield to Patrick Byrne with intent to pervert the course of justice.
“This is an effort to destroy CCTV footage which was of potential value in any Garda investigation or prosecution relating to the kidnapping of Martin Byrne.
“James Mansfield wanted to suppress this footage because it connected him to events of June 9th 2015”.
The 54-year-old, of Tasaggart House, Garters Lane, Saggart, Co Dublin was acquitted by the Special Criminal Court of a separate charge of conspiracy to falsely imprison Martin Byrne, who had previously provided security for the family business, on a date unknown between January 1st, 2015 and June 30th, 2015, both dates inclusive.
The non-jury court found that, although there was contact between Mansfield Jnr, O’Hare and Duffy “for nefarious purposes”, the evidence was “insufficient” to establish that Mansfield Jnr had “deliberately lured” Martin Byrne to attend the meeting at Keatings Park as part of a plan to facilitate O’Hare in the kidnap and removal of Martin Byrne.
In addition, the court also found that overall evidence was insufficient to establish that Mansfield “was a party to the plot to kidnap Martin Byrne”.
The three-judge court said it could not “completely exclude as a reasonable possibility” either a scenario that Mansfield was misled by O’Hare as to the purpose of the meeting at Keatings Park, or a scenario that he was not “privy to a plan” by O’Hare and Duffy to kidnap Martin Byrne.
“This court has no way of knowing how much, if any, knowledge, control or direction Mr Mansfield had of the forces which he unleashed when he decided to recruit O’Hare to his purposes,” said Mr Justice Owens.
However, the court was satisfied from the evidence that Mansfield was aware that members of the INLA and the New IRA had been engaged on his behalf in dealing with threats from traveller gangs and his efforts to “get back in control of assets” held by business associates.
Furthermore, the court found that the evidence showed that Mansfield had become involved with “some very dangerous players”.
A ‘pretty well known person’
At Monday’s sentence hearing, Sergeant Eamonn O’Neill from Kildare Garda Station, told prosecution counsel Shane Costelloe SC that Mansfield has no relevant previous convictions other than a road traffic matter from over ten years ago.
Under cross-examination, Sgt O’Neill agreed with defence counsel Bernard Condon SC that Mansfield had complied with his bail conditions.
The detective further agreed that the defendant had signed on once a week, had surrendered his passport and complied with not leaving the jurisdiction.
Mr Condon told the three-judge court that his client was a “pretty well known person”. “He is from a family known for its involvement in the hotel and community,” said the witness.
Referring to his personal circumstances, Mr Condon said that Mansfield had resided with his 78-year-old mother at Tasaggart House and had been her carer.
The court heard Mansfield was also separated from his wife, but they were amicable and in contact. He has two adult children.
The sergeant said the defendant’s family were involved in the Finnstown House Hotel.
In mitigation, Mr Condon said the count on which Mansfield was convicted did not contain aggravating features.
“There was no threat or success. It wasn’t followed up with, and he didn’t succeed [in destroying the footage]. It was not accompanied with any circumstance of threat. This person continued to work with him for a period of time, there was no intimidation,” said the barrister.
Another factor in mitigation, he said, was that there was a four-year gap before his client was prosecuted.
“That is relevant because for the last number of years he had these charges outstanding against him and hanging over him,” said Mr Condon.
The lawyer asked the court to take into account that his client had difficulties with dyslexia and had an “unorthodox education”.
“He did not continue to do State examinations and left school early. He was enrolled in secondary school but seldom went to school,” he said.
‘An early school drop out’
In his submissions, Mr Condon said that his client lived with his mother as her carer and she requires support and assistance.
Finnstown House Hotel, he said, which is now run by Mansfield’s son, employs over 100 people.
Counsel handed into the court several documents which included testimonials and a psychological report from Dr Kevin Lambe.
“The psychologist sets out his intellectual ability which places him in the lower range in terms of scores. He is operating at a mild intellectual disability range or borderline range,” said Mr Condon.
Mr Condon submitted to the court that his client refers to himself as “an early school drop out” and had difficulties in terms of dyslexia.
Video: Co Sligo aggravated burglary, plans to tack…
Mr Justice Owens, presiding, sitting with Judge Sinead Ni Chulachain and Judge James Faughnan, remanded Mansfield in custody until 1.20pm on Monday, when he will be sentenced.
Mansfield had pleaded not guilty to conspiring with one or more persons to falsely imprison Martin Byrne on a date unknown between January 1st, 2015 and June 30th, 2015.
He had also denied 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 (53) at Finnstown House Hotel, Newcastle Road, Lucan, Co Dublin between June 9th, 2015 and June 12th, 2015.
In 2019, O’Hare was jailed for seven years for falsely imprisoning Mr Byrne. Duffy was jailed for six years in 2018 for the same offence.