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Lifelong criminal Trevor Byrne to serve 17 years for firearms offences, armed robbery and hijacking

Byrne left his phone at the scene of a robbery at a bookmakers.

Image: Shutterstock

LIFELONG CRIMINAL TREVOR Byrne will serve consecutive jail sentences totalling 17.5 years for firearms offences and for the armed robbery of a bookmakers, after which he hijacked a woman’s car at gunpoint and threatened to kill her.

Byrne, who has 44 previous convictions, had left his phone at the scene of the robbery and was convicted earlier this year by the Special Criminal Court of five charges arising from the armed robbery of Boylesports in Applewood Village in Swords, Co Dublin, on 19 March, 2010.

Byrne (41) of Cappagh Road, Finglas West in Dublin had pleaded not guilty to the robbery, possession of a firearm, false imprisonment, threatening to kill and to unlawfully seizing a vehicle used in the getaway.

The court had heard that Byrne was released from a separate sentence in November 2009, just four months before carrying out the Swords raid.

The father-of-three is already serving a nine-year sentence backdated to November 2019 for a firearms offence. He had been found by armed gardaí in a back garden cabin, where a loaded handgun had been stashed.

He had pleaded guilty six days into his trial to possession of a loaded 9mm Luger-caliber Radom 35 firearm at a house in Woodford Grove, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 on 15 November, 2019.

Three other charges of possession of ammunition and €3,050 in cash that he was reckless towards, believed to be, or knew to be the proceeds of crime, were taken into consideration.

Byrne previously served an eight-year term for robbery of a pub and off-licence, after which he tried to hijack an unmarked garda car, pointing a gun at gardaí. He then managed to escape in a taxi, after holding a gun to a taxi-driver’s head while being pursued by gardaí.

The non-jury court convicted Byrne in the present case after being satisfied that a mobile phone dropped at the scene during the robbery was his. He was also recognised from CCTV.

Today at the Special Criminal Court, presiding judge Mr Justice Michael MacGrath said that both the robbery and false imprisonment carried maximum sentences of life imprisonment.

He said that a threat to kill carried a maximum sentence of 10 years, while hijacking had a maximum sentence of 15 years. He said the firearms charge carried a presumptive minimum sentence of five years in prison.

Mr Justice MacGrath said that Byrne had previous convictions for larceny, burglary, robbery, unlawful taking of a vehicle, possession of a firearm, and that he hijacked an unmarked Garda vehicle after pointing a shotgun at a garda.

At a previous hearing, prosecuting Garda Sergeant Mairéad Murray told Shane Costelloe SC, prosecuting, that it was the fourth time a trial had been scheduled for Byrne to face these charges.

He had originally been tried in the Circuit Criminal Court with a co-accused. While his co-accused was acquitted, there was a disagreement among the jury on Byrne’s charges. His second trial before the Circuit Criminal Court collapsed, after a member of the jury asked to be recused.

A bench warrant had to be issued for Byrne’s arrest when his third trial was due to begin. At that stage, the DPP decided that the trial should be remitted to the Special Criminal Court.

Today, Mr Justice MacGrath said that Byrne had put staff at the bookmakers and the victim of his hijacking in “great fear and terror” and placed them in fear of their lives.

The judge said that Byrne’s actions were a cause of “great distress” for them and said they were “serious” offences.

Mr Justice MacGrath said that the robbery involved two men and was “intentional, premeditated and planned” for the day of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, when the bookies would be busy.

The judge said that Byrne’s victims had been put through “significant psychological trauma”, which was an aggravating factor as was his previous convictions.

Mr Justice MacGrath said that he would fix ten years’ imprisonment as the headline sentence for the armed robbery and the false imprisonment before any mitigation – both having a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The judge noted Byrne’s tragic family circumstances, that he had a young family and that he was no longer using drugs and gave a six-month discount on all five offences.

The judge said that Byrne’s barrister, John D Fitzgerald SC, had pointed out that his client’s earliest previous conviction was at a time when he was a minor.

Fitzgerald had said that he had been raised by his mother with four siblings, three of whom had died in tragic circumstances.

“It’s a background marked by chaos and tragedy,” he said.

Mr Justice MacGrath then further discounted a year for proportionality and possible rehabilitation.

In passing sentence, Mr Justice MacGrath said that all five sentences arising from the raid on the bookies would run concurrently to each other but would run consecutively to the conviction for the other firearm offence in November 2019.

He then sentenced Byrne to eight-and-a-half years in jail for both the armed robbery and the false imprisonment, six-and-a-half years for the threat to kill and seven-and-half years each for the possession of the firearm and for hijacking the car.

Prosecution counsel Shane Costelloe SC had told the non-jury court that both the manager of the bookmakers and the victim of the hijacking did not wish for their victim impact statements to be read out in open court.

Costelloe had said that it would be apparent why the victim impact statements weren’t being read aloud and asked the judges to take that into consideration when giving their judgement.

A previous hearing of the court was told that some members of the public were present when firearms were put to the heads of staff members in the bookies. The alarm was raised when another member of the public attempted to enter the shop, saw the robbery taking place and called the gardaí.

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However, before they arrived, the raiders had compelled staff to open a shutter and let them out. It was the Gold Cup day of the Cheltenham festival, but the raiders got away with only €1,490 in cash.

Threats were also made to a woman, whom Byrne and another male car-jacked at gunpoint outside the Boylesports shortly after closing time that day.

The woman had been leaving a nearby shop at the time.

She gave evidence in court of one of the men telling his accomplice during their getaway that he “could not believe” he had dropped his phone at the scene. The woman said that the males refused to let her out of the car, demanding that she look to her left out the window and not at them. However, she said she could hear one refer to the other using a name beginning with ‘T’.

They eventually released her on a country road in north Dublin but took a portion of a letter she had in her handbag. It bore her address, and they threatened to come and find her and kill her if she went to gardaí.

The mobile phone found at the scene was examined. A phone number saved on it as ‘Ma’ matched the number given by Byrne’s mother on various official government documents.

Byrne had told gardaí that the phone could have been an older one that once belonged to him and claimed to have had a phone stolen from him.

Following the trial, Mr Justice MacGrath said it would have been incredible for the phone to have been “stolen and then brought back to the scene the next day by someone who looked like the accused”.

Mr Justice MacGrath had said that he was satisfied with the good quality of the CCTV at the bookies, from which gardaí identified the defendant as he looked towards the camera upon entering the premises.

Byrne and the other male then entered the bathroom, from which two men re-emerged 35 minutes later, brandishing guns and wearing balaclavas.

Photos were later taken of the inside of one of the stalls. A ceiling tile had been displaced and the assumption was that they had hidden in the attic crawl space.

Mr Justice MacGrath said that the court was satisfied that the robbery had put the staff and the woman in fear of their lives due to the use of “lethal weapons” by both men.

Justice MacGrath said that he was satisfied that it was Byrne who was caught on the CCTV in the bookies before the robbery and said the CCTV, which captured the entire incident was of good quality. He said that the staff and the female motorist were all “entirely consistent” in giving their evidence and that Byrne’s claim that the phone was stolen from him “doesn’t bear scrutiny”.

About the author:

Paul Neilan

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