A young father who was holding a rare and powerful machine gun in order to pay off a drug debt has been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison.
Mark Skelly (aged 19) of Bulfin House, Bulfin Road, Inchicore, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of a Mac-10 firearm, ammunition and a silencer at his father's home in Ballyfermot on May 21, 2019. He has no previous convictions.
Detective Garda Donal Donoghue told Monika Leech BL, prosecuting, that the loaded machine gun was found in a wheelie bin at Skelly's father's home along with a silencer. He said the weapon, which was capable of firing 1,140 rounds of ammunition a minute, was very rare and no longer manufactured.
He said that Skelly had displayed “a level of knowledge” in relation to firearms that Skelly claimed came from playing the computer game “Call of Duty”.
Judge Karen O'Connor suspended the final two years of a five-and-a-half-year sentence on condition that Skelly enters into a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for two years, that he remain under supervision of the Probation Service for 12 months and engage with any treatment recommended by them.
Judge O'Connor said Skelly had assisted in the most serious form of criminality and the weapon was armed and ready.
She acknowledged that Skelly was very young at the time, “the positive evidence that he is now drug-free”, the support he has from his family and partner and his previous good character.
At a sentence hearing earlier this month, Det. Gda Donoghue said that Skelly admitted that he had previously discharged the gun but wouldn't give the gardaí “any specifics”.
Det. Gda Donoghue agreed with Michael O'Higgins SC, defending, that Skelly's parents separated when he was young and that both his mother and father had their own difficulties.
He accepted that Skelly left school at 15 years old and began spending a lot of time at home playing video games before he started abusing both cocaine and cannabis.
Det. Gda Donoghue said there were “some grounds for optimism” in that Skelly had not come to garda attention since his arrest. He has a partner and she gave birth last February.
The garda said he was “reasonably confident” that if Skelly stayed drug-free and away from his previous contacts, he would not be before the court again.
He accepted that there was no “background intelligence” that Skelly gained his knowledge in relation to the weapon from any other source than this computer game.
Ms Leech said given the nature and quality of the firearm, that it was a high-velocity weapon which was loaded and primed for use, the Director of Public Prosecutions put the case at the higher end of the scale.
Mr O'Higgins told Judge O'Connor that his client maintained that he didn't discharge the gun.
Mark Kavanagh of the Matt Talbot Community Trust said Skelly was referred to his programme in November last year. He described him as being motivated, disciplined and diligent, outlining that he had been providing urine samples every two weeks.
“He is very focused and very determined in a community where cannabis is freely available,” Mr Kavanagh said in describing Skelly's desire to stay off drugs and out of trouble Mr O'Higgins said a psychological report described Skelly as a “psychologically vulnerable young man” who had come under increasing pressure to pay off a drug debt.
The report stated that Skelly claimed there were frequent phone calls in relation to the debt and that he was assaulted, which he felt was “connected to his dealer”.
Counsel said Skelly agreed to hold the weapon to “waive part of the debt” and “took the line of least resistance”.
Mr O'Higgins said:
Regrettably it is a profile that the courts see all too often. Parents who are crippled by their own difficulties are raising children who are deeply impacted by the situation and they fall between the cracks.
He said Skelly was from a fragmented home, left school early and was spending his day in front of a video screen.
“He had no goals and no incidences of people prodding him in the right direction,” Mr O'Higgins said before he added that it was “no surprise” that Skelly began experimenting with drugs and running into debt.
“He came under the influence of serious criminals who then got him to store this type of weapon” counsel continued.