Sentences for men caught with sawn-off shotgun in County Limerick are upheld

Ruaidhrí Giblin

Reporter:

Ruaidhrí Giblin

The non-jury Special Criminal Court heard that the men were intercepted by members of the Garda’s Emergency Response Unit in a stolen car which had travelled from Adare

The non-jury Special Criminal Court heard that the men were intercepted by members of the Garda’s Emergency Response Unit in a stolen car which had travelled from Adare

A sawn-off shotgun can have “no legitimate purpose”, according to the Court of Appeal in upholding seven year sentences for two men caught on IRA activity in County Limerick.

Dublin men Conor Hughes, 41, with an address at Goatstown Close in Goatstown and Darren Fox, 28, of Coolevin in Ballybrack both pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of a Winchester 12-gauge, sawn-off, double-barrel side-by-side shotgun and two 12-gauge shotgun cartridges at Kyletaun, Rathkeale, on October 31, 2015. 

The non-jury Special Criminal Court heard that the men were intercepted by members of the Garda’s Emergency Response Unit in a stolen car which had travelled from Adare. They were wearing gloves and each had a hoodie pulled tightly over his head.

A loaded sawn-off shotgun, described as “ready to go”, was found in the front of the vehicle. Its serial number had been removed. Also within the vehicle was a jerry can containing petrol and a quantity of matches. 

Both men had good working histories and no previous convictions “of a substantive nature”. 

The three-judge Special Criminal Court sentenced the men to seven years imprisonment on October 2, 2017, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal this Tuesday. 

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said the mens’ headline sentences of 10 years, on pleas of guilty, were at the higher end of the spectrum.

However, they were not so severe that they required intervention, the court concluded.

Mr Justice Birmingham said there were ‘many’ factors present which meant this was a particularly serious case.

These included the nature of the weapon, a sawn-off shotgun, which can have “no legitimate purpose”; the fact the weapon was loaded and “ready to go”; the fact it was being carried in a vehicle stolen earlier and that “the activity interrupted by gardaí was in furtherance of the aims of the illegal organisation that was the IRA and the intention of that organisation to ‘effect an event’ that evening”.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, said the court could not conclude that the sentences fell outside the available range. Rather, the outcome arrived at by the Special Criminal Court was a “proportionate one”, he said.

The appeal was therefore dismissed.