A County Fermanagh farmer is in contempt of a prohibition on allowing his cows to trespass onto land owned by the company once run by Sean Quinn, a High Court judge ruled on Monday.

Patrick Treacy was found guilty of breaching the order obtained by Mannok Build Ltd.

The 83 year old is now set to be fined for the repeated escapes by some of his cattle.

In June last year he had been barred from permitting any of the herd from straying onto the rebranded firm’s land near quarry facilities at Gortmullan.

The order was obtained as part of an ongoing legal dispute over Mr. Treacy’s claim to have grazing rights.

Six breaches

Six separate alleged breaches on dates in September and October were identified by Mannok - formerly known as Quinn Industrial Holdings.

The company issued contempt proceedings, seeking sanctions against the farmer.

Photographs and dashboard camera footage was shown of the Charolais breed straying beyond their fields.

Mannok’s Chief Executive, Liam McCaffrey, told the court on one occasion a road had to be closed and lorries diverted at cost to the firm of £7,000.

He emphasised his responsibility to protect the health and safety of the company’s business and staff.

Questioned about why those who spotted the cattle were not named, he said the current management team has been subjected to six years of intimidation.

“This campaign, as far as we are aware, is carried out by supporters of Sean Quinn who would like to see him reinstalled in the business,” Mr. McCaffrey claimed.

No allegation was made that Mr. Treacy is linked to those incidents.

“I am not in any way insinuating that he is involved in the overall campaign of intimidation,” Mr. McCaffrey stressed.

Defending the contempt application, the farmer argued that any episodes of trespassing were isolated, inadvertent and accidental.

Gate lying flat

In evidence he claimed to have discovered a heavy iron gate lying flat which had enabled his cattle to escape.

He also suggested cows could have got out because concrete blocks amassed by Mannok had pressed down onto his land. But rejecting Mr. Treacy’s case, the judge pointed out that liability did not depend on establishing any intention to flout the order.

Mr. Justice Humphreys said the evidence established cattle trespassed onto the plaintiff’s lands on four separate occasions over a period of three weeks.

The farmer failed to identify an obvious breach in fencing through which his animals escaped, even if caused by Mannok’s rubble, he held.

“The defendant has nonetheless allowed the cattle to trespass onto the plaintiff’s lands,” the judge confirmed.

“I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant has breached the terms of the court order of June 28, 2021, and accordingly is guilty of contempt of court.”

A separate hearing will be held to decide the appropriate sanction.

Mr. Justice Humphreys indicated: “I’m certainly not minded to impose something that would cause financial hardship, but I do think the circumstances are such that some monetary penalty should follow.”