Businessman Jim Mansfield Jnr has pleaded not guilty to charges of false imprisonment and perversion of justice at the Special Criminal Court this morning.
Mr Mansfield (53), of Tasaggart House, Garters Lane, Saggart, Co Dublin, is charged with conspiring with one or more persons to falsely imprison Martin Byrne on a date unknown between January 1st, 2015 and June 30th, 2015, both dates inclusive. This is contrary to Section 71 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.
The non-jury court heard this morning that Martin Byrne is now in the Witness Protection Programme.
The accused man is also charged with 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 at Finnstown House Hotel, Newcastle Road, Lucan, Co Dublin between June 9th, 2015 and June 12th, 2015.
Arraigned on the two charges before the non-jury Special Criminal Court today, Mr Mansfield pleaded not guilty to both counts on the indictment.
Dressed in a navy coloured suit, white shirt and blue tie, Mr Mansfield attended the three-judge court today with three members of his family.
Defence counsel Bernard Condon SC, for Mr Mansfield, informed the non-jury court that an employee of Mr Mansfield was isolating as a result of a Covid-19 issue.
Mr Condon said this person, who would ordinarily be in court for the trial, was required by the defence as their knowledge of the issues in the case was very extensive. He said they had not been cleared by their doctors to break their self-isolation and were due a test tomorrow. He added that Mr Mansfield had been a close contact of this person and if they tested positive for Covid, he would then have to self-isolate.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Alexander Owens pointed out that Mr Mansfield was represented by a solicitor and counsel in the case and said the employee was not necessary for his defence.
However, Mr Condon argued that the employee had been "intimately involved in his business and affairs over many years".
In reply, the judge said that this did not give the employee an entitlement to be in the proceedings. Mr Condon asked the court to be "at least receptive" to his client's position and explained that the employee may be a defence witness in the case. Mr Justice Owens said this individual would not be entitled to be present in court during the trial if they were a defence witness.
"[They] would be unless the court ruled otherwise," replied the barrister.
Furthermore, Shane Costelloe SC, on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), said that very substantive disclosure issues were continually being sought and part of the contents of a file maintained by the Witness Security Programme had already been disclosed to the defence.
Mr Costelloe asked the non-jury court not to hear any substantive matters in relation to the trial today and put the matter back until Tuesday. Mr Justice Owens said the court was agreeable to put the matter back until next week when the situation regarding Mr Mansfield's employee would be known.
Mr Costelloe said there were protected witnesses in the case and Martin Byrne, who is in the Witness Protection Programme, was the principal witness that would be called. "Once the disclosure issues are resolved it is quite a short case," he added.
Mr Justice Owens, sitting with Judge Sinead Ni Chulachain and Judge James Faughnan, remanded the accused man on continuing bail to appear before the court again on Tuesday morning. The trial is expected to last three weeks.
The non-jury court vacated Mr Mansfield’s trial date last April over concerns related to the availability of certain witnesses during the Covid-19 crisis. The businessman's trial was pushed back a number of months until today due to complications with certain witnesses arising out of the pandemic.
The accused was previously admitted to bail on an independent surety of €10,000 and subject to a number of conditions, including the requirement to sign on once a week at Lucan Garda Station between 9am and 9pm and not to leave the country.
In December 2019, Mr Mansfield was granted legal aid after the Special Criminal Court heard that he had a €6 million judgment against him.