A Dublin man who was spotted by gardaí carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle in a sports bag in a city centre street was jailed for four years by the Special Criminal Court today.
The court heard that two plain clothes gardaí stuck in traffic on Wexford St saw Denis Dwyer carrying a blue sports bag from which could be seen the barrel and stock of an assault rifle.
Garda Terry Gleeson, of Harcourt Terrace, stopped Dwyer outside a shop on Camden St and told him to put his hands on the unmarked garda car for his own safety. He then arrested Dwyer.
Dwyer, a 23-year-old apprentice plumber, of Drumcarra Avenue, Jobstown, Tallaght pleaded guilty last month to the unlawful possession of a Kalashnikov assault rifle and 21 rounds of ammunition at Camden St on November 22 last year.
The State did not proceed with another charge against Dwyer of INLA membership.
Garda Gleeson told prosecuting counsel Mr Michael Bowman BL that he was on patrol with Detective Garda David Ganley at 8.45pm when he spotted Dwyer hurrying along Wexford St in the Camden St direction.
He said the gardaí stopped their car outside a Spar shop in Camden St and then saw the outline of a rifle in the sports bag from the illumination of the shop window. He said the barrel and stock of the rifle could be seen protruding from the bag.
He stopped Dwyer who appeared to be nervous and Dwyer said he had found the bag in a laneway.
After his arrest the bag was searched and was found to contain an AK74 assault rifle (a more recent version of the AK 47 rifle). There were two magazines in the bag, one of which was loaded with 21 rounds of ammunition.
Dwyer during interviews with the gardaí took responsibility for the bag but denied knowing what was in it. He told gardaí he was to pick up the bag and it was to be dropped off, but he did not know what were its contents.
Garda Gleeson said that Dwyer lives with his widowed mother, his two sisters and three brothers and had one previous conviction in the District Court for possession of a baton.
Dwyer’s counsel Mr John Peart SC said that his client was not "a career criminal" and was probably being used as a courier.
Sentencing him to four years imprisonment to date from the date of his arrest last November, Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding, said that the Criminal Justice Act of 2000 provided for a mandatory minimum sentence for firearms offences of five years unless there were exceptional circumstances.
The judge said that the court considered in this case there were exceptional circumstances.
He said that Dwyer has admitted the facts from the beginning, had pleaded guilty at an early stage and had never been in prison before.