Tuesday 20 March 2018

Duo caught with cache of weapons allegedly linked to the Kinahan cartel jailed

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

Eimear Cotter

TWO men caught with a cache of weapons allegedly linked to the Kinahan cartel have received sentences of 10 years and nine years at the non-jury Special Criminal Court.

Jonathan Harding (45) was sentenced to 10 years with one suspended for a period of two years.

His accomplice James Walsh (33) was sentenced to nine years in prison with one year suspended for two years.

They were previously described as a "trusted lieutenant" and "willing participant" but would not have had "the acumen" to design such an operation.

The men were arrested after gardai from the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau raided a business unit in Rathcoole.

When they searched the unit, they found a large cache of firearms and ammunition in an upstairs loft area.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, with Judge Ann Ryan and Judge Patricia Ryan, said, described the weapons as "a lethal arsenal for the purpose of organised and very serious crime".

Mr Justice Hunt said the guns were kept hidden in a loft "under the trappings of a legitimate logistic business".

He also told the men that if they had not pleaded guilty they would have been jailed for 12 years.

Walsh, of Neilstown Drive and Wheatfield Avenue, both in Clondalkin and Harding, of McNeill Court, Sallins, Co Kildare, had pleaded guilty before the Special Criminal Court to possession of firearms in suspicious circumstances.

The weapons were found in a warehouse at Grants Drive in the Greenogue Business Park, Rathcoole, on January 24 last year.

Detective Inspector Noel Browne previously told Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, that upstairs in a loft area gardai found a large quantity of ammunition, including nine revolvers, four pistols, a sub-machine gun, assault rifle and various ammunition magazines.

The guns were lying on cardboard and the ammunition was in boxes and in plastic shopping bags.

Four of the guns were loaded and ready to fire.

All the guns were in "excellent working condition", the inspector said.

Insp Browne said two newspapers as well as a plastic cup found in the unit were later forensically analysed by gardai and matched the DNA profile of Walsh.

The court had heard that Harding had two previous convictions, while Walsh had convictions for minor public order matters.

Defence counsel, Sean Guerin SC, for Harding, said he had five children, four grandchildren and his daughter was expecting twins.

Mr Guerin put it to Insp Browne that Harding was "not a prime mover" in terms of the overall operation, and the inspector agreed, saying Harding was "a willing participant, but would not have had the acumen to design such an operation".

Mr Guerin said Harding had been in custody since January 2017, had enhanced prisoner status, was working in the prison bakery and was an on-call listener, to provide help and support to other prisoners.

Mr Guerin also said Harding wished to offer "a whole-hearted apology" to the court.

The court heard no link between the weapons and any recorded crime had been found.

Barrister Michael Bowman, SC, for Walsh, said his client was "following the directions of others".

Insp Browne said Walsh was "a trusted lieutenant" in the operation.

Mr Bowman said Walsh, an electrician, had two children and was engaged to his long-term partner.

His sibling had had drug difficulties and Walsh also developed a drug problem after the death of his mother, Mr Bowman said.

Walsh became involved in this operation owing to drug monies owed by him and his brother, he said.

A keen boxer, Walsh was described as a "wonderful person" and "devoted family man" in testimonials provided by his family to the court.

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