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Man who pointed unloaded shotgun at garda has jail term increased

Warren Nolan also pleaded guilty to possessing drugs and driving dangerously.

A MAN JAILED for pointing an unloaded shotgun at a garda, from a distance of two feet, has had his jail term increased following an appeal by prosecutors.

Warren Nolan (21) of Rowlagh Park, Clondalkin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possessing a firearm in suspicious circumstances at a location in the capital on 8 June, 2015.

Nolan also pleaded guilty to possessing drugs on the same occasion and to dangerous driving, reckless endangerment and driving without a licence in Clondalkin on 4 June, 2015.

He was sentenced to five years imprisonment with the final 18 months suspended by Judge Karen O’Connor on 25 July, 2016.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) successfully sought a review of Nolan’s sentence on grounds that it was “unduly lenient” and he was accordingly re-sentenced to five years imprisonment yesterday.

Counsel for the DPP, Gerardine Small BL, told the three-judge court that gardaí were alerted to people acting suspiciously in a vehicle on the date in question.

Garda Gavin Curran had approached the vehicle and endeavoured to open the door, where Nolan was seated, when the garda realised he was “two feet away from the barrel of a (pump-action) shotgun”.

The garda retreated, a second armed garda drew his weapon and Nolan was arrested. The court heard that the firearm was not loaded and no ammunition for it was found.

Small submitted that the sentencing judge erred in placing the offence in the mid-range and that a discount of more than 50% from the headline sentence of seven-and-a-half years for mitigation was “unjustifiably generous”.

An egregious crime 

Allowing the sentence review, Justice John Edwards said pointing a shotgun at somebody with menace was an egregious crime but it was further aggravated by the fact it was pointed at two gardaí acting in the course of their duties.

It was all the more serious that it caused an armed garda to draw his firearm in a public place.

Justice Edwards said the Oireachtas had provided a presumptive mandatory minimum sentence of five years imprisonment for possessing a firearm in suspicious circumstances and the sentencing judge erred in not expressly stating a finding of exceptional circumstances which would have enabled her to go below the minimum.

Even if she had expressed a finding of exceptional circumstances, he said it was hard to see on what basis she might have been so satisfied.

The mitigating factors were Nolan’s guilty plea, his age at the time of the offence (18) and personal circumstances, the court heard. There was no co-operation and no material assistance.

Justice Edwards said the judge approached sentencing conscientiously. Notwithstanding the care she took however, the court was persuaded that the discount afforded for mitigation was a clear departure from the norm.

Although a higher headline sentence and lower discount for mitigation could have been justified, Justice Edwards said the court decided not to interfere with either in light of the time that had passed and the fact that Nolan was seemingly doing well in prison.

Justice Edwards, who sat with Justice George Birmingham and Justice Alan Mahon, quashed the original term and imposed a new five-year sentence to date from the same date.

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Ruaidhrí Giblin