Man spends five days in prison for refusing to take out illegal dormer windows

Gerard Fitzgibbon an


Gerard Fitzgibbon an

A MAN who built dormer windows on to his home without permission spent last weekend in prison after he refused in court to take them out.

A MAN who built dormer windows on to his home without permission spent last weekend in prison after he refused in court to take them out.

Harold O’Toole spent five nights in jail after he clashed with Judge Mary O’Halloran in court in Kilmallock last Thursday as part of a long-running prosecution over illegal building work at his home at Beechwood Drive, Ballycoskery, Ballyhea.

However Mr O’Toole agreed to comply with an enforcement notice when he was brought back before the judge at Newcastle West Court this Tuesday. His solicitor, Paul Cagney, admitted that Mr O’Toole had had a change of heart after having “not the most pleasant of times” in jail.

Last Thursday in Kilmallock the judge heard that enforcement proceedings against Mr O’Toole were first brought in 2006, and that the case has appeared in court on a number of occasions since.

The court had previously heard that Mr O’Toole applied to convert his attic and put projecting dormer windows on the front and back of it. Cork County Council gave planning permission for the dormer windows at the back, but to omit them from the front and put in roof light windows.

Representing the council, Patricia Duff said dormer windows were put at the front and had not been removed.

Ronan MacKernan, executive planner with Cork County Council, said he had visited the site on July 4.

“The work had not been done. He has completely disregarded the enforcement notice. I met Mr O’Toole. He said he was not in a position to carry out works for financial reasons. He continues to build a large extension to a shed,” said Mr MacKernan.

Mr O’Toole’s solicitor, Paul Cagney, asked Mr MacKernan if he was aware of his client’s financial circumstances.

“It is no concern of mine. I’m there to enforce the planning act,” said Mr MacKernan.

Mr Cagney said his client had previously expressed reticence to do the work but he had intended to do the work until there was a minor house fire.

“It affected the living quarters. He had to carry out this work as a necessity to improve the living quarters,” said Mr Cagney. “He receives €188 a week. He is not in a position to do the work”. The judge asked if his client “understood English”? The judge said at the last adjournment she indicated a six month prison sentence if the work was not done.

Mr O’Toole took the stand. Ms Duff asked him why he hadn’t carried out the work?

“The fire had occurred. I was under a lot of stress at the time. If the council want them taken down so bad why don’t they do it and I’ll pay them back,” said Mr O’Toole. Ms Duff said it was not up to the council to do the work. She told the court that her client’s expenses to date were €2,035.

Judge O’Halloran asked Mr O’Toole “do you want to go to jail or do the work?” “I can’t,” said Mr O’Toole. “Then you will go to jail,” said the judge. “I can’t afford to do it,” said Mr O’Toole. Judge O’Halloran said she had to deal with it within the confines of the law.

Mr Cagney said if a six month sentence was imposed his concern was that the work would remain undone. He proposed a remand in custody until the next court sitting in Newcastle West on July 10.

“I will remand him in custody and see what it means to him,” the judge said.

In Newcastle West this Tuesday, a visibly chastened Mr O’Toole gave an undertaking to take out the dormer windows by October.

Mr Cagney said “I appreciate the court’s patience has been tested”, and that Mr O’Toole has decided to change tack as “the past week has given him a lesson regards what awaits him”.

The case was adjourned until Kilmallock District Court sitting on October 4.