Tuesday 22 October 2019

DPP seeking extra jail time for gang who tried to steal €2m from cash van

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A gang who tried to steal over €2m from a cash-in-transit van in Co Meath three years ago must wait to hear whether they will be given extra jail time on foot of an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Stefan Saunders (40), from Hazelbury Park, Blanchardstown in Dublin, Francis Murphy (39), from Drogheda Road, Carranstown, Duleek, Co Louth and Damien Noonan (32), from Rusheeny Court, Hartstown, Co Dublin pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit robbery on dates between August 26 and October 7, 2016.

Saunders and Murphy also pleaded guilty to carrying a semi-automatic pistol at Yeats Centre, Navan Road, Dunboyne on or about October 7, 2016 with intent to commit robbery. Noonan pleaded guilty to possession of a stolen BMW, the would-be getaway vehicle, on the same date.

They were each sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with the final two-and-a-half suspended by Judge Michael O’Shea on June 12, 2018.

Trim Circuit Criminal Court heard that the three-man gang was dressed in spandex, tight clothing, ski-masks - known as snoods - and were each wearing two pairs of latex gloves.

Saunders was armed with a pistol with eight blank rounds, one in the breach, while Murphy had a crowbar. They hid in the disused bank in Dunboyne after breaking the lock on the window and disabling the alarm.

They had bleach, which they sprayed across the room and a sheet to lie on as they waited for the G4S van. They all had walkie-talkies and carried mobile phones.

Noonan had dropped Saunders and Murphy off at the bank in the early hours and waited for them on the Main Street in Dunboyne in a stolen BMW X 5 SUV. The van and the ATM contained more than €2m.

The Director of Public Prosecutions are seeking a review of the men’s sentences on grounds they were “unduly lenient”. The three men also brought appeals against the severity of their sentences and three-judge Court of Appeal reserved its judgment.

Counsel for the DPP, Shane Costello SC, said it was contemplated to be as serious a robbery as it gets.

He said it was a well orchestrated, highly developed scheme involving weeks of preparation.

In stages, he said Saunders and Noonan kept surveillance on the van, monitoring its movements, and took steps to render the alarm useless.

Mr Costello said no violence was actually perpetrated because gardaí arrived on time but audio recordings indicated that the two men inside the building, Saunders and Murphy, “had a gun and would use the gun if necessary”.

He said much emphasis was laid on the men’s guilty pleas but it was hard to imagine being caught “more red handed”.

Counsel for Saunders, Seán Gillane SC, said all the DPP had done was recite facts which were accepted. It was not contested, he said, that the crime was organised and serious.

He said the only error was in the length of the sentence his client received.

Counsel for Noonan, Michael O’Higgins SC, said it was a conspiracy offence and it was not actually known what would have happened if the gardaí hadn’t intervened.

Mr O’Higgins said the robbery could have been carried out with the minimum degree of violence, adding that it was a “known unknown”.

He said the DPP were operating on the assumption that the “worst possible scenario was envisaged”.

Counsel for Murphy, Seán Guerin SC, said his client only became involved in the operation late in the day.

He said the DPP laid emphasis on the planning and premeditation but that did not apply to his client.

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said the court would reserve its judgment.

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