Gardaí had to dive for cover when an armed man fired at them in the course of a 13-hour siege at a Sligo house, a court heard yesterday.
Judge Keenan Johnson, who pointed out that 110 gardaí were involved in the incident, sentenced the accused, Michael O’Connor, of Nolmar, Strandhill Road, Sligo, to seven and a half years in prison, suspending 18 months of the sentence.
The judge said O’Connor had reloaded a shotgun on 23 separate occasions and fired indiscriminately at gardaí.
Sligo Circuit Court had heard 15 houses were evacuated during the incident which began in the early hours of December 28, 2013.
The accused had pleaded guilty to three charges — possession of a firearm with intent to cause death or serious injury, reckless discharge of a firearm and damage to a Garda car at Nolmar.
Judge Johnson noted it was fortunate there was no loss of life and praised gardaí for the way they handled the siege, adding that with all negative publicity surrounding the force, there was a danger that society would forget the vital work they do.
The accused fired a total of 23 shots, 19 inside the house and four outside including at gardaí and at an unmarked patrol car, the court heard.
The judge was told that gardaí had to dive for cover when O’Connor came out of the house and fired at them.
Judge Johnson said the outcome the gardaí had achieved in what was clearly an extremely dangerous situation “was the best that could be hoped for, and sets the standard as to how siege situations should be approached and dealt with”.
Judge Johnson had been told that the accused who was alone in his parents’ home at the time had consumed nine half litre bottles of Speckled Hen ale. He said it appeared that O’Connor having consumed the ale, was bored and for some reason “best known to himself” had taken his father’s legally held shotgun and discharged shots around the house.
He said that while the defendant had a history of psychotic episodes in 2008, 2011 and 2013, these were linked to cannabis abuse, and there were no medical or psychological reasons to explain his actions. He was also mindful the accused had been diagnosed with ADHD as a child.
However, the judge noted O’Connor had been able to reload the gun 23 times and had told a doctor he felt “excited” at seeing the destruction caused by firing the gun.
He had also admitted he had heard gardaí calling out to him on three occasions but had ignored them as he wanted to have a cup of tea, demonstrating a “cavalier” approach, the judge said.
Eileen O’Leary, defending, told the court the probation services deem O’Connor at high risk of re-offending and she believed that he he needs secure accommodation but not prison.
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