Two Cork men have been found guilty by the Special Criminal Court of the possession of two loaded handguns found inside a pencil case.
Anthony Carroll (aged 30) of Curaheen Close, Bishopstown, and his co-accused Brian Walsh (aged 43) with an address at Connolly Road, Ballyphehane, had pleaded not guilty to the unlawful possession of a Walther pistol, a Smith & Wesson revolver and 12 rounds of ammunition at Deanrock Avenue, Togher, on February 23, 2013.
The non-jury court heard that the loaded Walther and Smith & Wesson handguns were found by gardai inside a pencil case discovered in a van the men were stopped in.
Evidence was heard that Mr Walsh was the driver of the van, while Mr Carroll was discovered by gardaí on the floor in the back, which was partitioned from the driver’s compartment by black plastic.
Both men were wearing forensic suits and a garda search of the van uncovered a broken mobile phone, rubber gloves, shoes, runners, “a lot of plastic bags”, a wig, a container of bleach, petrol cans and a home-made wick.
The van was registered to a non-existent address in Rathmore, Co Kerry.
Counsel for the two accused men did not adduce evidence on their behalf or make any closing submissions.
Returning judgement this morning Mr Justice Paul Butler said that having regard to the circumstances of the arrest of both men, in particular their presence in the same van dressed in a “similarly striking manner”, the court was satisfied that each was aware of the other’s presence and were jointly involved in an enterprise that included the firearms and ammunition.
He said the court was satisfied that each of the accused had the benefit of access to independent legal advice and in the case of each man sections 18, 19 and 19A of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 2007 were invoked in interview.
The sections allow a judge or jury to draw inferences from an accused’s failure or refusal to account for their presence at a particular place. Mr Justice Butler said that the accused men failed or refused to give an account as required by the provisions of the Act.
He said the court in such circumstances may draw inferences from the failure or refusal and these may be treated as corroborative of any evidence to which the failure or refusal is material.
While an accused cannot be convicted solely or mainly on the basis of such inferences Mr Justice Butler said, these can be coupled with other evidence in the case such as the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the van, the persons and items found therein.
Mr Justice Butler said that all of those matters were together sufficient evidence of possession or of constructive possession of the firearms and ammunition for a joint enterprise and an unlawful purpose.
He said the court was satisfied beyond doubt that each of the accused was in possession of the firearms and ammunition for an unlawful purpose.
Mr Justice Paul Butler remanded Brian Walsh in custody for sentencing before the court on May 9. He remanded Anthony Carroll to Cork District Court, as he is currently serving a four-month suspended sentence imposed by that court.
The accused men had pleaded not guilty to the unlawful possession of a Walther PI 9mm calibre semi-automatic pistol, a magazine suitable for use with the Walther pistol and a Smith & Wesson .22mm Magnum calibre revolver with the serial number AEM 2000 at Deanrock Avenue, Togher, on February 23, 2013.
They had also pleaded not guilty to the unlawful possession of six rounds of 9mm calibre ammunition suitable for use with the Walther PI 9mm calibre semi-automatic pistol and six rounds of .22 long rifle rounds of ammunition suitable for use in a Smith & Wesson .22 magnum calibre revolver at the same address on the same date.