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Judge jails thug for intimidating witness

A JUDGE has this weekend sent out the strongest message to date to criminal gangs who seek to intimidate State witnesses.

Notorious Limerick criminal Brian Collopy was jailed for eight years on Friday at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court for the crime of intimidating a witness in an upcoming trial. Judge Carroll Moran deemed it an affront to the fabric of the administration of justice in the State.

Collopy, 38, of St Senan Street, St Mary's Park, Limerick; and Ballysimon, Co Limerick, was convicted by a jury last month of intimidating or putting in fear Willie Moran at Island Road, Limerick, on June 9 last year.

Mr Moran -- a former associate of Collopy until a dispute arose between the pair before last April -- is the "critical" witness in a forthcoming case against two men.

After visiting the home of his fiancee's mother in Oliver Plunkett Street, Mr Moran encountered Collopy and another man driving a van as they left St Mary's Park.

With his fiancee and their two young sons alongside him in the Ssangyong van, Collopy and his companion cocked their hands in the shapes of guns and pointed them at Mr Moran.

Collopy shouted at Mr Moran: "Willie, you are going to get it now. Ronan won't save you now." His reference was to Det Sgt Ronan McDonagh, based at Henry Street garda station.

Judge Moran said that Mr Moran took the threat to mean he was not to turn up in court for the upcoming trial.

The court heard that an attempt was made to get Mr Moran to go to a solicitor's office to withdraw a written statement and Judge Moran said this further illustrated the attempt to intimidate him was part of a pattern. Mr Moran and his family remain under 24-hour garda protection.

While noting that the crime committed did not employ violence or a weapon, the judge said the intimidation used by Collopy was at the higher end of the scale.

"An attack like this on the fabric of the administration of justice of this nature cannot be tolerated ... as it undermines the courts and criminal trials in Limerick," he said to a silenced courtroom.

A married father of four with 19 previous convictions -- including criminal damage, attempted larceny, public order and obstructing a police officer -- dating back to 1990, Brian Collopy is no stranger to either the courts or the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).

His home -- Ashby House at Fedamore, Co Limerick -- was seized by CAB in 2003 as part of a €470,000 settlement after it was established that it had been purchased with the proceeds of criminal activity.

Collopy bought the rural property in March 2002 for more than €150,000 and paid for it in cash. It was sold at public auction for €225,000.

Last Friday, as Collopy contemplated spending much of the next decade behind bars, another notorious criminal and opposing gang member, Ger Dundon, was jailed for five years in the first Limerick gangland case to come before the Special Criminal Court.

Dundon, 23, of Hyde Avenue, Ballinacurra Weston -- who has 99 previous criminal convictions -- appeared before Mr Justice Paul Butler at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin.

Along with his co-accused, David McCormack, 26, of Crecora Avenue, Ballinacurra Weston, Dundon pleaded guilty to committing violent disorder at Sarsfield Avenue, Garryowen, Limerick, on February 17 last.

Sunday Independent