A 39-year-old man has been jailed for 18 years for the attempted murder of two gardaí who were shot after he opened fire from a bedroom window at his home in West Dublin last year.
Sentencing Daniel Goulding at the Central Criminal Court on Friday to 20 years in prison with the final two years suspended, Mr Justice Paul McDermott said these offences were of the most serious kind and he had considered imposing a sentence of life in prison. However, he said to impose a life sentence would give little or no allowance to the mitigating factors of the case, including the fact that Goulding suffered from a mental illness.
Goulding of Whitechapel Grove, Clonsilla, County Dublin, pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of two detective gardaí at his family home on May 25, 2021.
Mr Justice McDermott said Goulding's ready access to, and possession of, guns and many live rounds of ammunition was "a very disturbing aspect" of this case. His discharge of those weapons onto a street in a built-up suburban area was also an aggravating factor, the judge said.
"His access to firearms provided him with very significant firepower at that time," he added. The two gardaí suffered gunshot injuries to their legs and one was also shot in the hand.
Mr Justice McDermott said both gardaí had outlined the "terrifying" and "life-changing" effects the shooting had had on their lives. The judge said the harm done to the two victims was very serious and Goulding had engaged in a potentially lethal attack. Both men were injured in the shooting and there was no doubt they could have been fatally injured and very nearly were, he said.
Mr Justice McDermott said the detectives were "trapped under fire" for three minutes and returned fire "having feared for their lives". They were then forced to maintain that position "wounded, exposed and alone," Mr Justice McDermott added.
They were eventually helped from the scene, with some difficulty, by members of the Armed Response Unit using protective shields. The judge said their colleagues were obliged to extract them even though they were, as they perceived it, still under real threat.
The judge said a two-hour siege then followed until Goulding surrendered his weapons through the window. The two gardaí had attended the scene following reports from neighbours who had observed Goulding sitting in an agitated fashion in the bedroom window, he said.
It appeared one or two shots had been fired before the two detectives arrived and upon their arrival Goulding "immediately opened fire" from the bedroom window forcing them to dive for cover behind a car. Both gardaí were wounded in their left foot and one also suffered serious injuries to his middle and index fingers, the judge said.
Mr Justice McDermott set a headline sentence of 27 years for each attempted murder. He said credit must be given for Goulding's plea of guilty and for the fact that he had expressed regret for what he had done. In addition, he said Goulding committed these offences while suffering from a significant mental disorder.
Imposing a 20-year sentence, the judge said he would suspend the final two years of this for a period of six years subject to a number of conditions. He said it is important that Goulding is closely monitored when released from custody and that he complies with any treatment recommended.
At an earlier hearing, the two gardaí, who cannot be named due to a court order, told how they were forced to take cover behind their patrol car for nearly 30 minutes after the gunman started shooting at them without warning using a semi-automatic pistol and a sub-machine gun.
They described how they had responded to reports of gunfire at Goulding's home. As soon as they got out of their unmarked patrol car outside the house they were immediately fired on without warning. The gunfire lasted three-and-a-half minutes.
The shooting stopped when Garda Brendan O'Hora arrived shortly after the first two gardaí and shouted at Goulding to "stop shooting". After two hours of negotiations Gda O'Hora persuaded Goulding to give up his firearms.
The court heard that Goulding, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was suffering from a psychotic episode at the time and that his life was under genuine threat. He referred to that threat against his life when gardaí interviewed him following the shooting.
Defence counsel Michael Bowman SC told the court that Goulding was not charged with "capital attempted murder", showing that the defendant did not understand that he was shooting at gardaí at the time. He believed that "parties were coming to get him" and he "lost it", counsel said, adding: "He was, at all times, struggling with mental health issues."
One of the injured gardaí said that was the first call he had responded to that day, and it was "very nearly my last". He said: "Gunshots were aimed directly at us injuring both of us.
He said that he is unable to forget the incident and is reminded of it every day when he sees the scar on his foot. He lives with the discomfort and pain and believes he will require physiotherapy for the rest of his life.
The garda added: "I often think of the 89 members of An Garda Siochana who have lost their lives doing their duty and I think that I came extremely close to becoming the 90th."
The other garda said that he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and suffers from "constant flashbacks, mood swings and insomnia".