A businessman who held up a judge, a barrister and his estranged wife with a fake pistol and a hoax pipe bomb in a Dublin court siege has been jailed for six years.
Sentencing Edmond Dunican (aged 47) today, Judge Patricia Ryan said this was a planned and premeditated offence which has had ongoing adverse effects on the victims.
During a court hearing in December 2018, Dunican told the court he had a “problem” with an opposing barrister, Lisa Daly, before he drew a “realistic” firearm from his briefcase and threatened her with it, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.
Dunican, described in court as a “man on the edge”, was also wearing an elaborate device around his neck that resembled a pipe bomb. The court heard Dunican, a fitter by trade, had made the fake bomb at home.
The judge in the court room refused to leave when Dunican told her she could go. She stayed in court with the other two women and repeatedly appealed to Dunican to drop the gun.
The 17-minute siege ended after an armed garda negotiator persuaded Dunican to surrender the gun and let the women go. The court building was evacuated and surrounded by armed garda units during the incident, while an army unit was called in to assess the device.
Dunican of Stadium Business Park, Ballycoolin, Dublin, pleaded guilty to one count of carrying an imitation firearm with criminal intent at a court in Dublin city on December 20, 2018. He has no previous convictions.
The court heard that in a letter of apology to the victims Dunican said: “I never intended to hurt anyone”.
Judge Ryan reduced a sentence of 11 years to eight years after noting a number of mitigating factors including Dunican's remorse and his state of mind at the time. Fiona Murphy SC, defending, had earlier told the court that at the time her client “was a man on the edge” and felt this was “his only course of action”.
Judge Ryan backdated the sentence to the day of the offence, when Dunican went into custody. She suspended the final two years on condition that he be of good behaviour and that he have no contact whatsoever with any of the three victims.
Detective Garda Shane Connolly previously told Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, prosecuting, that Ms Daly had had a number of dealings during court proceedings with Dunican, who was representing himself.
On the day in question Ms Daly told the court that it was her last day as a barrister as she was going to become a solicitor.
When Dunican's matter was called before the court, he drew the imitation firearm and told Ms Daly: “Did I hear you say today is your last day? You have no idea Lisa, you have no idea.”
As Ms Daly crouched in her chair, the judge repeatedly told Mr Dunican: “Put your weapon down sir, please.” The court registrar pressed the panic alarm and gardaí were called to court over the tannoy system, while Dunican said: “It's too late for the guards, judge.”
Dunican said the registrar and judicial assistant could leave the court and the judge too, telling her he didn't mean her any harm, but the judge replied: “I'm not leaving.” The judge continued to reason with Dunican until armed gardaí entered the court and a negotiator persuaded Dunican to surrender.
Ms Daly told gardaí it was a terrifying experience and she believed Dunican was going to shoot her in the head or detonate a live bomb. Dunican's wife said she was “petrified” and “frozen in fear” throughout the ordeal.
The court heard the bomb looked realistic and was fitted with a metal pipe and a functioning red and green light. The imitation firearm resembled a semi-automatic pistol.
The judge told gardaí that Dunican told her she could leave but that she remained “in order to defuse the situation as best she could”.
She told gardaí the incident was “surreal” and she had never experienced anything like it. She said that at no point did Dunican say why he was doing it or what he wanted to achieve.
Victim impact statements were handed into court from Ms Daly and Dunican's wife, but the judge declined to make one.
Ms Murphy said he “appreciates the serious nature of the matter before the court”.
She handed up a detailed psychological report and a letter of apology from her client. The court heard Dunican previously ran a successful business but that his life “crumbled” in recent years.
Ms Murphy said Dunican had become increasingly stressed in the months before the offence, that he suffered from heart problems and was “at the end of his rope”.
Judge Ryan said she was also taking into consideration Dunican's serious medical conditions, as outlined in a psychological report.
Judge Patricia Ryan noted that a number of people had been “obliged to remain” in the court, although others were allowed to leave.
She said the siege ended when members of the Garda Emergency Response Unit (ERU) entered with shields. When the judge and gardaí asked him to put down the weapons, Dunican did not comply, Judge Ryan said today.
She said that although Dunican was caught red-handed his guilty plea spared the victims having to give evidence in a trial and saved court time. She noted also that he co-operated in the garda investigation and gave gardaí full details of how he built the device.
She took account of “serious medical conditions” he was suffering from. Just before the incident, documents he deemed important for his court action were lost in a house fire and this contributed to Dunican's decision to do what he did.