A 22-year-old north Dublin man whose trial was conducted in an “atmosphere of intimidation” has been jailed for 10 years for attempting to murder another man over a €200 drug debt.
Handing down sentence at the Central Criminal Court today, Mr Justice Paul Carney praised the bravery of jury members and witnesses in the trial of Michael Brennan of Cromcastle Drive, Kilmore in Coolock.
He said their “combined courage” had “overcome the accused's express view that he was untouchable.”
Mr Justice Carney also said that the accused had “disentitled” himself from any mitigating circumstances, such as his previous good character, or the fact that he had shown genuine remorse.
Mr Brennan was convicted by a jury last December of the attempted murder of James Egan, and of possession of a sawn-off shotgun with intent to danger life.
He was sentenced to eight years in prison for the firearms offence, to run concurrent with his 10-year sentence.
The jury in the case had heard that he was a teenager when he went with his now deceased co-accused, Wesley Byrne, to Mr Egan's home at Cromcastle Court and carried out the organised shooting on April 29, 2006.
Mr Egan had been expecting them over to cut up drugs. He answered the door when he heard Mr Byrne’s voice and was shot twice, in the stomach and thigh, but he told the trial that he did not see who was at the door. He said he only saw a flash.
The teenagers fled the scene on their bicycles and returned to Mr Byrne's house. The gun was never recovered. There was no forensic evidence in the trial and the accused was convicted on the evidence of people who where in Mr Byrne’s home that night, and saw them with the gun.
The court heard that during his interviews with gardaí, the accused said “I’m not telling the truth. I won’t give you the satisfaction.”
When reminded there were witnesses, he said “I don’t think the people will step up… They won’t go to court.”
Gardaí had also told the court that “from the initiation of the investigation there a constant threat of intimidation.” In his victim impact statement, Mr Egan stated that he might be under intimidation from others.
The witnesses however eventually came to court and testified against the accused.
Mr Brennan has 62 previous convictions, mainly for road traffic and public order offences.
He had been living in his family home and was involved in petty car theft and anti-social behaviour at the time he shot Mr Egan.
His defending lawyer, Mr Paul McDermott SC, had submitted a psychological assessment on his client, which said his extremely low ability meant he would have difficulty thinking through the consequences of his actions.
Mr Justice Carney had also been asked to take into account the accused's youth and his chaotic and dysfunctional background. He also heard that Mr Brennan came from a separated family and had spent only two weeks in secondary school.
But the judge said he considered the accused to be of the age that “this particular crime seems to be committed.”
He also said that he had taken into account the effect the shooting had had on the victim, and the fact that he was “driven out of his home, his community and into hiding.”
Mr Egan left his home for his own safety but is not under garda protection. However gardaí monitor his movements when he attends a clinic in the Belcamp area.
Mr Justice Carney sentenced Mr Brennan to 10 years in jail and backdated the sentence to September 14, 2007.
He refused leave to appeal the conviction and sentence.