Bitter Williamstown ‘squatter’s rights’ land dispute results in jail term

AFTER one of the longest cases heard at Tuam Court in recent history a defendant involved in a bitter land dispute in Williamstown was sentenced to prison and fined for what Judge Geoffrey Browne described as a vindictive campaign of intimidation against an extended family. Kenneth Noone of Crossard, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo was convicted of engaging in the prolonged intimidation of the extended Keaveney family of Lickeens, Williamstown. This is a long running dispute and has come before the courts on several occasions. On Tuesday Judge Browne heard that the parties will be back in the Circuit Court next months in relation to further matters arising out of the bitter dispute. Noone claimed at Tuam Court that he is the victim in this case. He argued that the 30 acre farm at Lickeens was his wifeâ€â„¢s family home. Her sister, who now owns the property, is living in Australia and the family became concerned that the Keaveneys were attempting to get â€Å“squatterâ€â„¢s rightsâ€Â on it by moving their cattle onto it. Repeated run-ins[private] The Keaveneys denied this. Three brothers, Marcus, Sean and Tommy gave evidence of having repeated run-ins with Noone whom they accused of mounting a campaign of intimidation against them. The Keaveneys installed CCTV on some of their properties and maintained logs of incidents. Noone was accused of blocking gateways, dumping rubbish on their property and calling around to the village at all hours of the day and night, monitoring their activities. Supt Gearoid Begley outlined that the events before the Court occurred between May 2009 and December 2010. Thomas Noone said that he had to install CCTV to protect himself and his family. His children were terrified of Noone whom the called â€Å“the madmanâ€Â. He said people were scared of Noone because he was regarded as a dangerous man. Declan Oâ€â„¢Callanan solr for Noone accused Thomas Keaveney of trying to â€Å“muscle inâ€Â on the land in question and his client had to act to put things in order. â€Å“You were trying for adverse possession but you didnâ€â„¢t quite have the 12 years,â€Â he said. Organised campaign He accused the Keaveneys of engaging in an organised campaign to intimidate and damage his client, including four sets of proceedings family members were currently taking against him. There were accusations of assault and roads being blocked, cattle being let loose and property damaged. All three Keaveney brothers related a litany of complaints against Noone and insisted they just wanted to live a quiet life in peace with their neighbours. Marcus Keaveneyâ€â„¢s wife Caroline also gave evidence of Noone following her into a supermarket in Glenamaddy and intimidating her. They said their mother who is now 80 lived in fear of Noone. In the last year court cases had had to be adjourned on 13 occasions when Noone pleaded illness or some other excuse not to appear, Marcus Keaveney said. Both Noone and Keaveney were previously bound to the peace when they appeared before Tuam Court on charges arising out of some of the incidents described. Sean Keaveney accused Noone of making defamatory accusations against him and painting offensive comments on walls near his home. A defamation case in relation to these is set to be heard in Galway next month. Det Garda Michael Kelly gave evidence of investigating the complaints made against Noone by members of the Keaveney family. The issues took up quite an amount of Garda time over the past four years. He showed the Court CCTV footage of some of the incidents complained of. On one occasion he and a collegue arrived at Lickeens around midnight and observed tractor lights being shone on Tommy Keaveneyâ€â„¢s home. Noone said he was carrying out farm work at the time. Noone told the Court â€Å“we have broke their claim on the land and got them out of itâ€Â. He said the Keaveneys were known as bullies in the village but he wouldnâ€â„¢t be bullied. He added that his daughter was establishing a veterinary practice in the locality and his son was studying to be a vet so they didnâ€â„¢t want any bad publicity. The Keaveneys were forever reporting him and making trouble for his family. In one week he and the Gardai, Customs, the Co Council and the cruelty to animal people out checking on him because of reports they had made. The pressure was having a detrimental impact on his heath and he had even offered to rent the land to the Keaveneys just to get a bit of peace. â€Å“Iâ€â„¢m the victim,â€Â he insisted. Conclusion Judge Browne said he had listened to five hours of evidences and was satisfied Mr Noone was guilty of harassing the Keaveneys. â€Å“I find the defendant embarked on systematic conspiracy over a period of time to harass and lay siege to the Keaveney family. This is probably one of the worst cases of neighbours from hell that Iâ€â„¢ve heard in a long time. â€Å“It could be said that the individual incidents described are not so important in themselves but the accumulation of incidents is very disturbing,â€Â he said. He added that the â€Å“bit of landâ€Â involved was owned by someone in Australia and even if the Keaveneys did want it there were legal ways to go about these matters. â€Å“As far as I can see this was a vindictive campaign carried out by the defendant and Iâ€â„¢m convicting him,â€Â the Judge said before sentencing Noone to three months in prison and fining him €1,500. He also ordered that Noone not communicate in any way with the Keaveney family. Recognisances were fixed in the event of an appeal.[/private]