Man gets four-year sentence for possession of firearm

A 25-year-old north Dublin man who stored an AK47 assault rifle in his pregnant girlfriend's house because he owed a drug debt of €1,250 has been sentenced to four years imprisonment by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Judge Katherine Delahunt suspended the final year of Robert Whelan s sentence after he pleaded guilty to possession of the firearm at an address in Casement Close in Finglas on April 26, 2007. A further count of possession of 99 rounds of ammunition was taken into account.

The court heard Whelan, of Gortmore Drive, Finglas, was a father of two, had no previous convictions and used cocaine in a social context .

He could not pay the money he owed to his dealer for the drug and agreed to store the weapon in order for the debt to be forgotten.

Under the Criminal Justice Act 2006 the offence carries a minimum mandatory sentence of five years unless there are exceptional and specific circumstances which would make such a sentence unjust.

Judge Delahunt took Whelan's immediate cooperation with garda , early plea of guilty and lack of previous convictions into consideration.

Garda Mark O'Riordan told Paul Carroll BL, prosecuting, that garda obtained a search warrant for Casement Close after receiving confidential information in relation to a firearm.

Upon arrival at the address Whelan s girlfriend s mother opened the door. Whelan was in an upstairs bedroom with his girlfriend and immediately told garda that there was a gun in the bedroom and he was responsible for it being there.

Whelan told garda that the previous day he had been told to go to The Anglers Rest pub, walk to Strawberry Hall and collect a bag from a blue jeep. He said he had a fair idea that there would be drugs or a gun in the bag.

A ballistics report revealed that the rifle was a Kalashnikov type, Yugoslavian made AK47 assault rifle in good condition .

Judge Delahunt heard that Whelan was not a drug addict but used cocaine on weekends and had worked for a security company at the time of the offence.

Garda O'Riordan agreed with Shane Costelloe BL, defending, that Whelan did not tell garda the names of the people he had dealt with as they were serious criminals and Whelan was in legitimate and real fear for the safety of himself and his loved ones .

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