A cocaine-snorting gunman who plotted to murder a Dublin man and described his intended target as a "f**king idiot" has been jailed by the Special Criminal Court for 11 years.
Luke Wilson (aged 23), who himself had been the victim of an attempted murder bid when his best friend shot him in the face five years ago, was recorded by gardaí in "extensive discussions" about the murder plot. He said in an audio recording that he had "no problem" camping in the back of a van in order "to get" Gary Hanley and that he wanted "money not jail".
The father-of-one also said: “He (Hanley) doesn’t even understand why our people want him gone, he is such a f**king idiot".
Wilson from Cremona Road in Ballyfermot, Dublin 10 admitted in July to conspiring to murder Mr Hanley at a location within the State between September 15 and November 6 last year. The offence is under Section 71 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.
He also pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a Beretta handgun with intent to endanger life at Philipsburgh Avenue, Fairview, Dublin 3 on November 6 last year.
Passing sentence today, Mr Justice Tony Hunt presiding at the non-jury court, said it was previously heard that a “vertical chain of command” existed and Wilson had no act or part in the "organisational part" of the endeavour. The judge said Wilson was heard on only two of the 23 audio transcripts which were available.
Mr Justice Hunt said Wilson had been described by gardaí as “an essential cog in the wheel” but nonetheless he had performed an important role.
The judge referred to the fact that Wilson, who is now drug-free, could be heard snorting cocaine on a number of occasions in the audio recordings.
Mr Justice Hunt said it was without doubt that Wilson had a difficult start in life. The defence had previously handed into the court a psychiatric and probation report which revealed that Wilson’s mother had died from a drug overdose and he lived with his grandmother. “Cocaine and alcohol led to a fairly dysfunctional family. His personal circumstances are tragic and one would hope he can break that cycle going forward,” submitted Wilson's barrister last month.
The judge said Wilson was motivated by financial and gambling issues. There was reference to Wilson, who had agreed to carry out the killing, expecting a payment in the transcripts.
Referring to the firearm charge, the judge said this carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a minimum sentence of 10 years.
Mr Justice Hunt said the headline sentence for the firearm offence was 16 years but he accepted there were mitigating factors in his favour, the “most weighty” one being his early guilty plea as well as personal mitigating factors which reduced this by 25%.
The possession of a gun took place in "very proximate" circumstances and the event would have occurred without the intervention of gardaí, said Mr Justice Hunt.
“He is now facing a long custodial sentence at a relatively young age and his constant medical condition will make life difficult for him in prison and upon his release,” the judge remarked.
Michael Bowman SC, defending Wilson, previously told the court that there was very significant trauma in his client’s life when he lost his eye at the age of 18 years after been shot in the face by his “life-long best friend” as part of an attempted murder. As a result, he developed post-traumatic stress disorder and fell into a deep depression.
Wilson is fully blind in one eye and is losing the sight in his other eye but he is scheduled to have an operation on this eye in order to recover his sight which his barrister said was “disappearing rapidly”.
Sentencing the defendant today for the firearm charge, Mr Justice Hunt sitting with Judge Patricia Ryan and Judge Michael Walsh, sentenced Wilson to 12 years imprisonment with the final year suspended for a period of three years.
The judge emphasised that Wilson could "rest assured" that if he had contested the trial he would have received a sentence of 16 years. “The plea of mitigation saved him a significant period of time in custody,” he said.
Wilson also received a six-year concurrent sentence on the conspiracy charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
“We assessed the headline sentence as eight years but as both offences arise out of the same transaction, it results in a concurrent sentence of six years on that count,” he concluded.
Wilson’s 11-year jail sentence was backdated to when he was first arrested, on November 6, 2017.
Wilson replied: “I appreciate that your honour.”
The defendant has 36 previous convictions at district court level which include theft and road traffic offences.
Speaking outside the Criminal Courts of Justice today, Detective Sergeant Seamus Boland from the Garda National Drug's and Organised Crime Bureau, said today's conviction is part of An Garda Siochana's relentless focus on individuals who are willing to target other people for assassination.
"I'd like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the investigating officers for their dedication and professionalism particularly the officers from the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau and the security and intelligence section," he said.
Det. Sgt Boland also thanked the local community as he said without them today's success would not have been achieved.
Alan Wilson (aged 39) of New Street Gardens, Dublin 8, Liam Brannigan (aged 37) from Bride Street, Dublin 8 and Joseph Kelly (aged 35) of Kilworth Road, Drimnagh, Dublin 12 are also charged with conspiring to murder Mr Hanley at a location within the State between the same dates.
Mr Kelly is also facing charges of the possession of a Beretta handgun and 15 rounds of ammunition with intent to endanger life at Philipsburgh Avenue, Fairview, Dublin 3, on the same date.
A trial date for Alan Wilson, Mr Brannigan and Mr Kelly has been set for October 7, 2019.