Thursday 19 July 2018

Suspended sentence for homeless man who brandished toy gun on DART

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

Jessica Magee

A homeless man who brandished a toy gun on the DART and frightened an American passenger has been given a 12-month suspended sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Mark Byrne (39) was “under the influence and giggling” when he waved the air pistol out the DART window on a summer's afternoon last year, the court heard.

The father-of-one, with an address at a homeless unit on Newtown Avenue, Blackrock, Co Dublin, pleaded guilty to possessing a realistic imitation firearm at Connolly Station on July 10, 2017.

When asked by gardaí why he had bought the gun, Byrne said he got it to shoot out the back of street cars, adding that he lived at a homeless shelter and “didn't have much of a life”.

Passing sentence on Thursday, Judge Karen O'Connor said Byrne had displayed “an extraordinary degree of immaturity” but had not intended to harm anyone.

“I accept that he's extremely sorry and has learnt his lesson,” she said, agreeing that the offence was “at the lower range” of seriousness.

Garda Siobhán Frisby told Marie Torrens BL, prosecuting, that there were three witnesses sitting across from Byrne on the light rail carriage, one of whom was an American woman travelling to Bray with her husband.

Grace Malone told gardaí that she spotted a man picking up orange pellets from the floor and wondered “what the hell” he was doing.

The man appeared to be under the influence and shooting at someone, she said, although she didn't know at whom he was aiming.

She said the man shot out the window and said, “Go on, ya gobshite!”

Ms Malone said she was in fear that the man was going to shoot at her, but her husband knew straight away that it was an imitation firearm.

Garda Frisby saw Byrne waving the handgun out the window of the carriage and giggling, before he was arrested by gardaí.

The pistol was analysed by Garda ballistics experts and found to be a realistic imitation firearm branded an “airgun”.

Byrne's backpack also contained about 1,000 Chinese-made 6mm calibre plastic pellets.

Byrne told gardaí he'd bought the gun after he saw it in the window of a toy shop on Talbot Street.

He said it was supposed to cost €8, but he got the gun and a thousand pellets for €10.

“I don't have much of a life, living in a homeless shelter,” he said.

Byrne has 69 previous convictions, the vast majority of which were for public order offences in the District Court.

Gda Frisby agreed with Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, defending, that Byrne was extremely naive and cut somewhat of a “pitiful” figure.

The garda further agreed with Ms Lawlor that the gun was something “a young fella might play with” and could be bought by anyone in a toy shop.

Ms Lawlor said her client did not have any realisation of how his actions might have been perceived by others and was very unlikely to engage in this type of behaviour again.

The court heard that most of Byrne's history of offending stemmed from his addiction issues but that he had not been in trouble since this offence.

Byrne has a health complaint which requires ongoing medical supervision, his counsel said.

Judge O'Connor warned Byrne that if he breached his bail conditions there would be serious consequences, to which he replied that he understood.

Leaving the court, Byrne said to the judge, “Cheers, thanks a million. Sorry for wasting the court's time and the police's time.”

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