A trusted member of an organised crime gang that was planning an imminent attack on a rival north Dublin faction has been jailed for five years after he was caught with a loaded handgun.
Jake Kearney, 25, of Coolock Drive, Dublin 17, pleaded guilty on May 5 at the non-jury Special Criminal Court to unlawful possession of a Luger-calibre Grand Power semi-automatic pistol at Oscar Traynor Road, Santry, Dublin 9, on October 30, 2019.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt noted today that Kearney's mother, whose home was burned out after his arrest, was being "punished for the crime of her son" in what the judge had previously described as a "desperate situation".
Detective Garda James Doolan of the National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau had told Maddie Grant BL, prosecuting, that confidential information had alerted gardaí about the handover of a firearm.
This was to occur outside the Coachman's Inn on the Swords Road for the purpose of being used in a feud between organised crime gangs in north Dublin.
Arriving at the scene at 9.10pm on October 30, along with a number of other Garda units, Det Gda Doolan told Ms Grant that he observed a silver Skoda Octavia taxi with three males in the vehicle.
Det Gda Doolan observed the rear passenger walk towards the patrol car and said that he identified Kearney, wearing a black hoodie and tracksuit bottoms, as he passed the driver side of their unmarked unit.
The witness said he observed Kearney on his phone and that he disappeared out of sight for a few minutes before returning to speak to the driver of the Octavia. A Volkswagen Passat then parked in front of the pub and Kearney spoke to the driver before walking back to the Octavia.
Gardaí followed the Octavia to Oscar Traynor Road, where they stopped the car and observed a black handgun in the footwell behind the driver's seat. Kearney, who was wearing a pair of latex gloves, was arrested and taken to Ballymun Garda Station.
The gloves and Kearney's mobile phone were seized along with the handgun, which was found to be functional. Eight 9mm bullets were also found in the handgun's magazine.
Today, in sentencing Kearney, Mr Justice Hunt said that the context of the information received by gardaí was one of "an ongoing north Dublin feud".
Mr Justice Hunt noted Kearney's relatively minor previous convictions at the District Court level and his early guilty plea and agreed with Det Gda Doolan who could not say that Kearney himself was to use the gun.
"Mr Kearney would have been a trusted member of this organised crime group and the information we received was that the firearms was to be used in an imminent attack against a rival faction. But I have no information on whether or not Mr Kearney was to use the firearm himself, just that it was to be used," said Detective Garda Doolan at a previous hearing.
Mr Justice Hunt said that the maximum sentence was 14 years but that in Kearney's case that the headline jail-term was eight years. He said the court would discount 25% of the sentence for the early guilty plea.
Mr Justice Hunt said that the gun was "loaded and ready for use and actual harm was only prevented by the gardaí".
The judge said that it was reasonable to take into consideration that it was "far more likely that Mr Kearney was facilitating the movement of the gun for use by another".
Mr Justice Hunt took into account a probation report that said Kearney was of high risk of reoffending and referenced an outstanding drug debt.
However, the judge noted that Kearney was drug-free, had applied himself well while in custody and "felt responsible" for the burning out of the family home.
The court had previously heard that Kearney, who had been living at home, suffered from anxiety and depression, which was exacerbated by cannabis use. It also heard from his counsel that there was a history of mental health issues in the family, regarding Kearney's father, and that his drug use created a paranoia.
Mr Justice Hunt noted that Kearney's mother was "a hard-working woman", who intended to move from the area, which would give Kearney an opportunity to get away from childhood associates.
The judge suspended the final year of the sentence, telling Kearney: "it's for a specific purpose: to make better use of yourself".
Sentencing Kearney to six years with the final year suspended, the judge ordered Kearney to live with his mother for two years upon his release and to engage with the Probation Service for 12 months. He is also to be of good behaviour and to keep the peace for three years upon his release.
Mr Justice Hunt back-dated the five-year sentence to November 2, 2019, when Kearney first went into custody.
A count of possession of ammunition was taken into account by the court and Kearney entered into a bond of €100 to keep the peace, upon release, for three years.
Mr Justice Hunt told Kearney to "listen to your mother in future".