Friday 21 July 2017

Grandfather caught with sawn off shotgun after 'people tried to kill him' jailed

The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin
The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin

Fiona Ferguson

A grandfather who told gardai people were trying to kill him after he was caught with a sawn off shotgun hidden in his back garden has been jailed for six years.

Donal O'Hara (51) had also been caught growing cannabis plants in a master bedroom of his home a year earlier and was on bail for that offence when gardai discovered the firearm.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard shots had been fired at O'Hara's home just days before the shotgun, which was in poor condition, was found and O'Hara was “at the end of his tether.”

O'Hara, of Glin Park, Coolock, Dublin pleaded guilty to cultivation of cannabis at his home on February 11, 2015. He also pleaded guilty to possession of a 12 gauge single barrel sawn off shotgun and shotgun cartridges at his home on June 22, 2016.

O'Hara has 29 previous convictions including drugs, public order and road traffic offences.

Judge Patricia Ryan noted that there were unusual circumstances in the case and that O'Hara had the firearm for his own defence “to ward off persons who may endanger him or his family.”

She noted that one of O'Hara's sons, who is now in custody, had “attracted attention” to the family home. There were shots fired at the house and one member of the family had a gun put to his head.

Judge Ryan imposed four years with one suspended for the drugs offences. She imposed a consecutive sentence of seven years with the final four years suspended on the firearms offences. This gives a total jail term of six years.

Garda Joe McBride told Noel Devitt BL, prosecuting, that gardai acting on confidential information searched O'Hara's home on February 11, 2015 and found 72 cannabis plants at an early stage of growth in the master bedroom. O'Hara said he was growing the plants for his own use.

The court heard the plants had a potential street value of €55,600 if they were all female and all grew to full maturity. It was not determined if the plants were male or female.

Garda Alan Roche told Mr Devitt that on June 22, 2016 gardai acting on confidential information again searched O'Hara's home and found a sawn off shotgun and cartridges inside a bag in a trailer at the rear of the house. O'Hara had assisted gardai in locating the items.

He told gardai that people were trying to kill him and he would let off a shot if someone came near the house but he was not into killing people. “This has to come to an end one day,” O'Hara said, “they will put me in a box.”

Gda Roche said there had been a chronological series of serious incidents at the house in the previous years including an unknown person firing four or five shots at O'Hara.

On examination, the firearm was found to be in poor condition and the forensic team were not prepared to fire it. O'Hara told gardai he had carried out “some small repairs” on the weapon.

Mr Rea said “background events” had brought attention on his client and he was “at the end of his tether” when he had the gun. He said his client and the family home had been shot at and it was a very unusual case.

Counsel confirmed that his client was now drug free and asked the court to take into account his attempts at rehabilitation.

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