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Derek Devoy jailed for 15 years over incident in which he assaulted garda and 'ran amok' with machine gun

A judge said it was an “appalling” act and “dangerous beyond belief”.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

A GANGLAND CRIMINAL who “ran amok” with a loaded machine gun in a “densely populated suburban area” before ending up in a bathtub with three unarmed gardai as they struggled to arrest him has been jailed by the Special Criminal Court for 15 years.

The non-jury court also heard that a primed hand grenade rolled onto the floor of the bathroom where gardai had cornered Derek Devoy but did not detonate, while one unarmed garda “narrowly avoided being shot in the head” during the arrest.

Sentencing Derek Devoy at the three-judge court today, Mr Justice Tony Hunt said this was an “appalling” act which was “dangerous beyond belief” and the notorious criminal was “inches away” from killing three gardai.

The defendant’s personal history included many tragic events including the shooting to death in separate incidents of both his brother and sister, said the judge.

“It must be said that these tragedies ought to have convinced Mr Devoy of the malevolent consequences of the unlawful possession and use of firearms, especially when it seems that Mr Devoy was the intended target when his sister was murdered,” he indicated.

Devoy (37), from Balbutcher Lane, Poppintree, Ballymun, Dublin 11 previously admitted possessing a 9mm Makarov PM63 RAK submachine gun with intent to endanger life and in suspicious circumstances at Cranogue Road, Ballymun, Dublin 11 on 11 March 2019.

The convicted criminal had also pleaded guilty to two charges under Section 19 of the Public Order Act for assaulting Garda Conor Garland and Sergeant Andrew O’Connor in the execution of their duty at Cranogue Road, Ballymun, Dublin 11 on the same date.

Devoy had further pleaded guilty to possessing an explosive substance, to wit a Yugoslavian M75 hand grenade with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to a property at Cranogue Road, Ballymun, Dublin 11 on the same occasion.

Passing sentence, presiding judge Mr Justice Hunt observed that Devoy “effectively ran amok in a densely populated suburban area” in the middle of the afternoon “by brandishing and using two lethal items”, a loaded semi-automatic machine gun and a hand grenade.

Subsequent investigation revealed that both of these items were viable and capable of causing significant death, injury and destruction in each case, he explained.

The details

Mr Justice Hunt said the submachine gun was actually discharged on two separate occasions on the day.

Firstly, two shots were discharged in public at the Knowth Court common area and gardai became involved after a member of the public saw the accused firing shots into the air, he said.

Secondly, five shots were discharged as Sgt O’Connor and Gda Garland attempted to restrain and arrest Devoy in the bathroom of Cranogue Road. “It is only by good fortune that nobody was killed or injured at either location as a result. One of the shots fired in the bathroom narrowly missed Garda Minnock in the hall of the house, and the bullet case struck his arm,” he highlighted.

The judge said Devoy continued to behave in a “highly agitated and aggressive manner” and all gardai present ended up in a bathtub attempting to restrain Devoy. He said regrettably matters did not end there and a hand grenade was observed on the floor of the bathroom, without the safety pin or fly-off lever attached.

“Further danger was caused by Mr Devoy’s continued struggle with the gardai in the bathroom in the presence of a hand grenade devoid of any safety mechanism,” said the judge.

These events were obviously very traumatic for all concerned, he said, as was vividly illustrated by the impact statement submitted on behalf of Sgt O’Connor and Gda Garland to the court.

Mr Justice Hunt said that after Devoy was finally subdued and removed from the house, the defence forces carried out a controlled explosion of the hand grenade which resulted in significant damage to the house and rendered it uninhabitable for a period of months.

The judge said a further aggravating factor is that this conduct was engaged in by a man with two previous serious convictions for firearm offences. Devoy has 27 previous convictions, including two firearms convictions, one of which he received 10 years’ imprisonment.

Danger

Mr Justice Hunt observed that counsel for Devoy, Sean Gillane SC, had submitted that his client had put himself in significant danger by his conduct, pointing to a particular incident on the day where he discharged the gun through his t-shirt on the journey to the house.

Secondly, Devoy was the recipient of four Garda information messages from 2015 on, which concerned threats to his life. An unnamed third person had previously told Devoy that a concealed gun and grenade were available to him if he required and he had availed of this facility in the circumstances of the day in question, said the judge.

Devoy’s conduct was inches away from causing the death or serious injury of one or more gardai, either by way of the shots discharged from the machine gun or by the exploding grenade, said Mr Justice Hunt. “That these results did not occur was due to good luck rather than design,” he added.

The court set the headline sentence at 20 years imprisonment. In mitigation, the judge noted that Devoy had wisely entered pleas of guilty and as a result imposed a straight discount of 15 percent from the headline sentence. This resulted in an adjusted headline sentence of 17 years on the first count, he said.

Furthermore, Mr Justice Hunt said that Devoy’s personal history included many tragic events, including the shooting to death in separate incidents of both his brother and sister.

“It must be said that these tragedies ought to have convinced Mr Devoy of the malevolent consequences of the unlawful possession and use of firearms, especially when it seems that Mr Devoy was the intended target when his sister was murdered,” he said.

The judge said that the non-jury court could accept that Devoy was thereafter in a hyper-vigilant and fearful state regarding his personal safety, particularly after receipt of the Garda information messages.

“Whether or not his perceptions of threat on the day in question were real or imagined will never be known,” he observed, adding that there is little doubt that all of these factors contributed to his irrational and violent behaviour.

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The judge noted that Devoy did express remorse and apologies in his garda interviews and had elected to repeat these sentiments in open court.

Devoy had also taken the time to explain his circumstances in a coherent and fluent letter to the court, where he expressed an intention to reform himself on his release and to use his time in custody to require skills to further that end, he said.

Mr Justice Hunt said it was difficult to be confident about Devoy’s assertions but having regard to the personal mitigating circumstances the court would suspend a further portion of the sentence to incentivise good behaviour on release from custody.

Mr Justice Hunt, sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Dermot Dempsey, sentenced Devoy to 17 years imprisonment with the final two years suspended on count one, backdated to March 11 2019, when he went into custody. Concurrent sentences of between six years and 14 years were imposed on the other counts.

Finally, Mr Justice Hunt commended all gardai present on the day for the courageous manner in which they tackled an “armed, irrational and dangerous man”.

They had pursued and disarmed Devoy in circumstances where they were unarmed and did not have access to any other personal protective equipment, he said. “Their actions are deserving of formal recognition elsewhere,” he concluded.

Afterwards

Speaking outside the Criminal Courts of Justice today, Detective Superintendent Paul Scott thanked the people and business community of Ballymun for their assistance in the investigation of the case.

“This case would not have come to court without that help and we are very grateful for that. I think anyone analysing the facts of this case would see that the acts of the three gardai on the day were extremely brave and serve as a reminder if one was needed of the dangers faced by An Garda Siochana everyday, trying to keep people in their communities safe.

“There has been a proliferation in recent years of dangerous weapons and firearms in society. Taking those weapons off the street is not something that we can do alone and I would ask members of the public who have any information in relation to the whereabouts of those firearms to please contact us in confidence,” he said.

Referring to the submachine gun used by Devoy, Det Supt Scott said it had a fire rate of 660 rounds per minute and with members of the public being present on the street, this showed his recklessness.

“It’s absolutely imperative that we as a society together with An Garda Siochana do all that we can to remove those dangerous weapons from society,” he said.

Det Supt Scott said the three gardai involved in the incident on the day had recovered and were “well used to dealing with difficult situations”.

“They have taken this particular incident in their stride and they are all working but it is something they will never forget. The sentence handed down is a very clear reflection of the gravity of the offence and I think the community of Ballymun is a little safer today,” he concluded.

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Alison O'Riordan

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