A man jailed for possession of a loaded firearm “available for immediate use” having rammed a garda patrol car has had his sentence increased by the Court of Appeal.
Daniel Prenderville (27), with an address at Rutland Avenue, Crumlin, pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm, possession of ammunition, unlawful use of a mechanically propelled vehicle and dangerous driving at Ballycullen, Dublin on September 6 2012.
He was sentenced to six years imprisonment with the final 18 months suspended by Judge Mary Ellen Ring at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on June 21 2013.
The Court of Appeal increased Prenderville's sentence to seven years imprisonment today following an undue leniency application by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Giving background to the case, Mr Justice George Birmingham said a garda patrol car spotted a stolen Audi A3 in the area of Daletree Place, Ballycullen on the date in question, in which three occupants were wearing balaclavas.
When the gardaí activated their flashing lights, the Audi was driven head on into the patrol car. “In effect the patrol car was rammed,” Mr Justice Birmingham said.
After the collision, the judge said, Prenderville got out of the driver's seat of the vehicle and was apprehended trying to escape over a wall.
Another occupant of the car was seen throwing a 7.65 calibre Baikal semi-automatic pistol over a wall. It was loaded with three bullets in the magazine and one in the chamber, the court heard. Furthermore the serial number had been removed.
It later emerged that the Audi had been stolen earlier that day, Mr Justice Birmingham said.
The trial judge had remarked that it was clear on the night in question, Prenderville and others were found in “highly suspicious circumstances” in possession of a loaded firearm “available for immediate use” and they were dressed in clothing that would “make their identification impossible” by the use of balaclavas and gloves, Mr Justice Birmingham said.
“It was even more disturbing to hear” that the loaded firearm was accompanied by a silencer, the sentencing judge had said.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Cathleen Noctor BL, had submitted that Judge Mary Ellen Ring had erred in suspending a portion of Prenderville's sentence that was not permitted by statute.
Ms Noctor submitted that the judge had not found the exceptional and specific circumstances which would justify the imposition of a sentence less than the statutory minimum of five years.
She further submitted that the offence should have been placed at the high end of the scale and for that a sentence of six years with 18 months suspended was seriously inadequate and represented a significant departure from the norm.
The Court of Appeal took the view, Mr Justice Birmingham said, that “only if exceptional and specific circumstances are identified is it possible to suspend all or part of the sentence,” so as to bring it below five years.
Mr Justice Birmingham said the trial judge, having found no exceptional and specific circumstances, erred in bringing Prenderville's jail term below five years.
He said the offence had to be seen at the top, though not the very top of the range for offences of this nature.
Consequently, Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Peter Kelly and Mr Justice John Edwards imposed a new sentence of seven years imprisonment in lieu of the original term.
Before leaving court, Prenderville was heard telling family members from a distance “it doesn't make any difference”.