Supporting Local News

Pensioner in court over old right of way dispute

A decades-old dispute over a right of way landed an 85-year-old man in court, accused of knocking an expensive wall specially erected to deter trespassers.

James DeCourcey, of Errisbeg, Roundstone, is accused of damaging a stone perimeter wall belonging to Rosemary White on January 2, 2020.

DeCourcey, 85, asked Judge Vincent Deane to adjourn the case for Judge Mary Fahy.

“Your honour the last judge said if I took the case myself she’d look after me,” he pleaded. “This court knows I can’t find solicitors to represent me.”

Judge Deane said the case would be heard.

“You’ve had all the chances to have a solicitor. Statements were sent to JJ Mannion…Sean Acton.”

DeCourcey replied that none of them would take the case.

The court has previously heard that over 30 solicitors locally and around the country declined to represent him declaring they had a conflict of interest. The legal aid board also refused to appoint a solicitor as it was a criminal damage charge.

“Why are all these people refusing to be your solicitor?” Judge Deane asked.

“I wish I knew,” DeCourcey retorted.

He asked Sergeant Linda Woodman if the defendant was at risk of being jailed if convicted.

After hearing he was not, he ordered the State to call their witnesses.

Rosemary White, who lives in Dublin, said she owned the property since 1999 but she had spent summers there since the 1960s when her father had bought a cottage which had been extended.

She recalled that she had spent Christmas 2019 there and left the property on January 2, 2020 when the stone boundary wall was intact.

On January 10, she received a phone call to say the wall had been knocked. She told Clifden District Court that she had a stonemason build the three-foot wall encased in concrete to the left of the entrance gates.

“I paid quite a bit of money to get the wall built,” she revealed.

“This wall was being constantly knocked down. It’s a dry stone wall so I had it built in concrete.”

Asked if he had any questions for Ms White, DeCourcey produced maps and several letters from solicitors which he claimed proved there had been a right of way beside the knocked wall.

“That land wasn’t owned by Ms White. It was owned by John O’Donnell. I bought the right of way from John O’Donnell,” he exclaimed.

“They bought the house. They didn’t buy the land. They bought the house and claimed the land.”

Ms White said the map the defendant presented to the court indicated her land.

“My father bought the land in pieces from [father and son] Michael and Michael John O’Donnell. They retained lands for cattle. We were prepared to give a right of way for cattle not vehicles.”

DeCourcey stated that he had shown a letter to the Gardaí proving he had a right of way on the land and after that the right of way was removed from the property folio and the Gardaí said they had mislaid the letter.

He produced a letter dated 2001 which referred to a draft deed of transfer for a right of way to Michael John O’Donnell.

Ms White said that transfer was never executed.

“We were going to agree to a right of way, but he didn’t need it because he didn’t have cattle…he lived on Inishnee.”

Judge Deane said the time to establish a right of way was before a land purchase.

“That letter says it was very close to being done. Ms White in sworn evidence said it never actually happened.”

Another letter was produced which referred to a judgement handed down by the late District Court Judge John Garavan.

“It says he was convicted and told to stay away from the property for two years – is this the same place the wall was damaged?” asked Judge Deane.

When told it was, Judge Deane noted that Judge Garavan had ruled previously there was no right of way.

“That I couldn’t disagree with one way or another,” replied DeCourcey.

Retired Garda John Conneely said he knew both parties in Roundstone and went to investigate a claim of criminal damage between January 2 and 10, 2020.

Judge Deane said this was not on the summons before him. “It says criminal damage on January 2.”

Inspector Brendan O’Grady said the State could not give evidence of when the criminal damage had happened only a possible timeframe. He said the date was an error in the paperwork.

Judge Deane said the accusation in the summons before him was very specific.

“You have a situation where this man is unrepresented. I have to protect his rights…what we have here is a situation where you’re telling me you can’t prove it happened on the date in the summons. In a situation where he isn’t represented, it’s very hard.”

Insp O’Grady said he was belatedly applying to amend the summons and change the dates.

Judge Deane said he would agree but would have to adjourn the case “in order to allow you [DeCourcey] not to be prejudiced”.

“Hopefully you’ll be able to instruct a solicitor to meet that case.”

The case was adjourned to October 26 to fix a hearing date.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

More like this:

Sign Up To get Weekly Sports UPDATES

Go Up