Wednesday 23 January 2019

Woman (21) who had loaded gun at Connolly Station out of 'misplaced sense of family loyalty' gets suspended sentence

Nikita Murtagh (also pictured inset) covers up as she leaves the Court of Criminal Justice.
Nikita Murtagh (also pictured inset) covers up as she leaves the Court of Criminal Justice.
Nikita Murtagh is charged with unlawful possession of a gun

Daniel Hickey

A 21-year old woman who pleaded guilty to having a gun at Connolly train station in Dublin has walked free after being sentenced today by the Special Criminal Court.

Nikita Murtagh, who the court heard was acting out of a "misplaced sense of family loyalty" when she handed a shoebox containing a loaded gun to a man about to board the Dublin to Belfast train, was sentenced to three years in jail, the sentence backdated to July 17th last year, when she first entered custody, with the balance suspended.

Murtagh, with an address at Mariners Port, Sheriff Street, Dublin 1, had pleaded guilty today to the unlawful possession of a CZ model 70 semi-automatic pistol at Connolly Station in Dublin on July 19th last year.

During her sentence hearing, Detective Inspector Noel Browne told prosecuting counsel Gareth Baker SC that on the day in question, during a surveillance operation, gardai observed Murtagh enter the train station shortly before 3:15pm.

She was observed heading toward the waiting area for the Dublin to Belfast train, which was due to depart at 3:30pm, the court heard.

She was pushing a buggy with a three year old child inside when she met her co-accused, Ciaran Ryan, and handed him a paper bag, before leaving the station.

The court heard that Ryan boarded the train but was stopped by gardai and tried to kick the bag away. When gardai searched the bag they found it contained a shoebox with a loaded gun.

Last month, Ryan (24), from Summerhill, Dublin 1 was jailed for three years for possession of the firearm.

Murtagh was arrested at 6pm at a bus-stop outside Dublin airport.

She had a handbag containing a change of clothes and a passport.

The next bus leaving was the stop was bound for Belfast.

Murtagh was then taken to Store Street garda station, where she told gardai that she did not know what was in the box.

The court heard that Murtagh is from the north inner city and was not a person known to gardai but has had relationships with people known to gardai and of interest to them on an ongoing basis.

Det Insp Browne said that her actions were "probably the result of misplaced sense of family loyalty" and that she had family members connected to violence of an extreme nature in recent years.

Under cross-examination, Det Insp Browne told Michael O'Higgins SC, defending, that Murtagh was a courier, chosen for her role because she was not a criminal but was "naive" and a "fresh face" who had not previously come to garda attention.

The inspector said that one of "unfortunate aspects" of investigating people such as the accused was that they are used by more devious people to effect actions of certain groups.

Det Insp Browne agreed with Mr O'Higgins that she was "not likely to re-offend".

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Patricia Ryan and Judge Ann Ryan, said that the court dealt with sentencing on the grounds of recklessness as opposed to intention.

The judge said the court was satisfied it was "clear to Ms Murtagh she was being asked to deliver something of an illicit nature, and she took the significant risk".

"There can be little doubt in relation to that," he said.

The court heard that "significant and weighty mitigating factors" were Murtagh's guilty plea, which had some value for the prosecution and investigators, as well as her "misplaced sense of loyalty".

Mr Justice Hunt said the court respected the inspector's assessment that she is a person "capable of staying out of trouble in the future".

The judge also said the court could not ignore that she is the mother of a three-year-old child.

He said that Murtagh was in court because of misplaced loyalty but that she has a young child that should be the "focus of her loyalty".

He said that the court gave her the sentence out of consideration for her child.

Murtagh wept audibly as the sentence was read out.

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