A man who supervised those lower down the chain of command in a plot to assassinate Dubliner Gary Hanley has been jailed for six years by the Special Criminal Court.
Sentencing Dean Howe at the non-jury court today, Mr Justice Tony Hunt said the defendant's activities had placed him in "a supervisory role" as part of this "elaborate and intricate planned scheme".
"He was a conduit of order from on high and forcefully encouraged the activities of those lower down the chain of command," commented the judge, adding that his contribution was "essential, high level and intentional".
Mr Justice Hunt also pointed out that the father-of-three was "one step" above those already dealt with in the chain of command and had passed on instructions from those further up the chain.
Howe (34), with an address at Oakfield, Dublin 8, pleaded guilty last December to conspiring with others to murder Mr Hanley at a location within the State between September 15 and November 6, 2017. He is the fourth man to be jailed for his role in conspiracy to murder Mr Hanley.
Luke Wilson (24), from Cremona Road in Ballyfermot, Dublin; Alan Wilson (39) of New Street Gardens, Dublin 8; and Joseph Kelly (35) of Kilworth Road, Drimnagh, Dublin 12, all previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to murder Mr Hanley.
Luke Wilson, who also pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a Beretta, was jailed for 11 years; Alan Wilson was given six years and Joseph Kelly, who also admitted a weapons charge, was jailed for 12 years.
Liam Brannigan has also been convicted for his role in the conspiracy to murder and is due to be sentenced on March 23.
Howe was involved in carrying out surveillance on Mr Hanley; supervising the use of several cars by him and his co-conspirators; collecting fuel; and giving instructions to the getaway driver Joseph Kelly.
The three-judge court has heard that Howe had scolded Joseph Kelly during the operation, telling him he had "fucked up" and asked "what are you getting paid for?" 'We all have our jobs to do" he told Kelly but "we had to do your job". These recordings were secretly captured by gardai in the bugged car.
Howe was also observed by gardai with two other men in the Phoenix Park at the same time tracking devices "pinged" in the park, two days before the devices were discovered on Mr Hanley's car.
Passing sentence today, Mr Justice Hunt said the accused man had been a regular participant in the recognisance journeys as well as the planning for the proposed attack. Conversations between Howe and Kelly strongly suggested that the defendant was in "a supervising role" and he had directed Kelly in the movement of vehicles, he said.
Referring to the defendant, the judge said he was "one step up in the chain of command" from Kelly and had issued him instructions.
Howe's activities were "recurrent and frequent", he was fully acquainted with the purposes of the organisation and his knowledge and intention were present at all times, said Mr Justice Hunt.
"He contributed actively to the conspiracy but this active contribution ceased five hours before the murder was to take place and we are in no doubt that he remained part of the conspiracy right to the end," he noted.
There was no doubt that Howe had received and passed on instructions from those further up the chain on command, said the judge, adding that he was satisfied that Howe was not at the top of the pyramid but had been intimately and frequently involved in the plot.
"Howe was a conduit of order from up high and forcefully encouraged activities of those lower down the chain of command and had monitored Kelly," he indicated.
Before delivering the sentence, Mr Justice Hunt emphasised that Howe's contribution to the plan to kill was "essential, high level and intentional".
The judge noted that his hands were tied by the existence of a statutory maximum of ten years for conspiracy to murder while other gang members had received higher sentences for firearms offences.
Having regard to the gravity of the offence, the judge said the headline sentence was eight years and six months in prison. Although there was a strong factual case against the accused man, his early plea of guilty was of benefit to the court, he said.
In mitigation, he noted the "low-level" nature of Howe's previous convictions. As a result, the judge said he would reduce the headline sentence from eight years and six months to six years and six months.
The judge said he would suspend the final six months of the sentence because of Howe's engagement in prison.
Mr Justice Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge Dermot Dempsey, sentenced Howe to six years imprisonment, backdated to May 30 2019 when he went into custody.
The judge warned Howe's barrister that the defendant would serve the extra time if he did not behave himself. He also praised the gardai for their work in the investigation.
At Howe's sentence hearing in January, Detective Superintendent Dave Gallagher who was previously attached to the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, summarised the facts of the case.
Det Supt Gallagher told prosecuting counsel Sean Gillane SC that Howe was involved in carrying out surveillance on Mr Hanley; supervised the use of several cars by him and his co-conspirators; was involved in the collection of fuel; and gave instructions to Mr Kelly.
Gardai set up a surveillance operation in Dublin in August 2017 which led gardai to believe that Gary Hanley was the target of a murder conspiracy, said Det Supt Gallagher.
He said the operation concerned individuals living in the Dublin 8 area while the target lived in the northside of Dublin.
Secret audio devices were placed on several vehicles and gardai tracked the movements of certain people up until the night of November 6th, 2017, when the plan to carry out the murder was "imminent" and several men were arrested.
On September 17 2017, gardai intercepted a Range Rover used by Mr Hanley and found tracking devices hidden on the car.
Det Supt Gallagher agreed with Mr Gillane that an analysis of these devices showed that, two days previously, on September 15th, 2017, these devices were moved from Dublin 8 to Phoenix Park.
Howe was under surveillance on the same date and officers saw him arriving, with another man, at the park on September 15 2017, Det Supt Gallagher said.
The two men were joined by an unknown male, the guard said, before adding that Howe was seen handing an item to the unknown male.
Det Supt Gallagher said the tracking device was "pinging" in Phoenix Park at the time that Howe was there with the other men.
The court heard that a secretly recorded conversation between Howe and Joseph Kelly while they were in a bugged Nissan Primastar, which Kelly was driving, on September 25 2017, revealed that Howe scolded Kelly.
Mr Gillane told the court that Howe was heard saying to Kelly that he had "f***ed up" and that "we had to do your job".
The barrister said Howe was also heard telling Kelly: "That's b***ix, Joey. The day you went to court, you f***ed up."
Howe also told him that "we all have our jobs to do" but that "we had to do your job".
Mr Gillane said a separately recorded conversation from the same van, on October 2 2017, revealed that Howe and another man were pouring petrol into bottles at the rear of the van.
The barrister said the man whom Howe was with in the car was later heard on the phone telling someone, "I'm just sorting the juice...I'm separating it...let me know if you hear from Joker".
"Joker", the court heard, was Joseph Kelly.
Mr Gillane also told the court that Howe was recorded talking to Kelly in a bugged Renault Laguna on October 4 2017, in which Howe asked Kelly why he hadn't moved a particular car.
On October 5 2017, a recorded conversation between them revealed that Howe told Kelly to cover his face while he bought petrol.
"We don't want any silly mistakes, right?" Howe told Kelly, the court heard.
The court heard that when Kelly returned to their car, Howe told him "good man, you kept your hood up and your face down".
Mr Gillane told the court that on October 26th, 2017, Howe and another man carried out surveillance of Mr Hanley's home from the Nissan Primastar van before 8am, while conversations recorded between the pair revealed that they discussed activities at Mr Hanley's home.
This Nissan Primastar van was burned out on October 30th, 2017, the court heard, as Howe and Kelly saw that Mr Hanley had spotted their vehicle as they passed him, while he was standing in his front garden on October 27th, 2017.
The court heard that on November 6 2017, it was clear to gardai that the conspiracy to kill Mr Hanley was at an "advanced" stage and that the plan to murder him was "imminent".
On that night, Kelly and Luke Wilson were arrested with a loaded semi-automatic pistol and silencer close to the home of Mr Hanley.
The senior guard said several homes were searched including two associated with Howe.
He said in April 2019, Howe made contact with gardai through his solicitor and, as a consequence, Howe was arrested by appointment at Irishtown Garda Station on May 13, 2019 and has been in custody ever since.
The court heard Howe has 37 previous convictions, 33 of which are for road traffic matters.
Paul Carroll SC, for Howe, asked the court to take into account his early plea of guilty and also that his previous convictions are "something of a minor nature".