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Baby blaster gets five years

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Defendant Charlene Donovan

Defendant Charlene Donovan

Defendant Charlene Donovan

A father and daughter have been jailed for five years for firing a gun in an incident in which a six-month-old baby was shot.

The court was told the little boy shot almost a year ago was in constant pain, still needed further surgery to remove shotgun pellets and would suffer lasting effects from his injury.

Dan Donovan (49) and his daughter Charlene (23) both pleaded guilty to recklessly discharging a firearm at a former neighbour's home in Parslickstown Gardens, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15, on December 12, 2017, and possessing a shotgun with intent to endanger life.

Dan Donovan also admitted threatening to kill or cause serious harm to Michael Collins on the same date.

Disputes

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was told there had been a history of disputes between the Donovans and the Collins family.

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The scene of the shooting

The scene of the shooting

The scene of the shooting

Speaking to the Herald after the shooting, Mr Collins called the shooting "pure evil".

"The bullet was meant for me but I ducked just in time," he said.

"It's a disgrace - targeting a baby is beyond evil. What did he do to anyone? He's not even a year old now and got a bullet in the legs."

Detective Garda Michael Parry Jones told the court that Charlene Donovan, now of Dundalk, Co Louth, had fired the first shot across the road.

This shot injured a 17-year-old man, the baby in his arms and that infant's mother, standing about four metres away.

Dan Donovan then took the gun from his daughter, threatened to "bury" Mr Collins and accidentally discharged the firearm into the ground by his feet.

Det Gda Parry Jones told how he arrived on the scene to see two uniformed colleagues trying to separate the two families.

He said the 17-year-old had his T- shirt pulled up and puncture wounds on his abdomen.

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Victims’ relative Michael Collins pictured after the shooting

Victims’ relative Michael Collins pictured after the shooting

Victims’ relative Michael Collins pictured after the shooting

The baby had been taken to hospital and had shotgun pellets removed from his legs. He is awaiting further surgery to have five remaining pellets removed.

In reports to the court, the child's mother said her baby can walk but is in constant pain. He sometimes wakes up with the pain and she has to massage his feet.

The woman said she has limited movement in her wrist, where a shotgun pellet lodged in her bone.

She also received a hip injury in the incident and has been suffering from shock and depression.

Judge Martin Nolan noted that the baby would have ongoing difficulties with his injuries.

"Whatever about the adults, this child was completely blameless," he said.

Det Gda Parry Jones told prosecutor John Berry that he arrested Dan Donovan at the scene when a sawn-off shotgun was found concealed under debris at the back of his then house.

Witnesses to the incident described a verbal altercation between the families, before Charlene Donovan was heard saying: "Daddy, take the gun, take the gun." The judge said he accepted that two men from the rival family were physically imposing, violent and intimidating.

Jailing both the Donovans, Judge Nolan said there was a history of dispute between the families and that both groups had decided to take the law into their own hands.

He said he accepted that the Donovans were in fear on the day and he was sympathetic to Charlene Donovan but she had shot somebody.

On hearing the sentence, the defendant broke down in tears and was held tightly by her father. Supporters of the family became upset in court but left quickly afterwards.

Det Gda Parry Jones said Dan Donovan claimed in his garda interview that he had been throwing fireworks at the back of his property on the day in question.

Residue

However, forensic examination of his trousers revealed that a residue found on them was consistent with a shotgun having been fired.

The garda said he arrested Charlene Donovan later in Wicklow, but nothing of evidential value arose from her garda interview.

Det Gda Parry Jones told Seamus Clarke SC, defending Charlene Donovan, he was not surprised to hear that a psychological report concluded that his client had a very low IQ.

He agreed that gardai had alerted her to a threat to her wellbeing in March of this year.

The detective also agreed with both counsel that father and daughter had entered early guilty pleas.

Dominic McGinn, for Dan Donovan, submitted to Judge Nolan that his client had genuine remorse for escalating the ongoing family feud.

He said Dan Donovan felt guilty for producing the firearm and giving it to his daughter.

Mr McGinn said his client accepted full responsibility for his daughter's actions.

He submitted that the animosity between the families had been slowly escalating in the months prior to this shooting.

He said his client had a young daughter with medical needs and the family had been looking to move when the incident happened.

Mr Clarke submitted that Charlene Donovan's intellectual functioning "is in the particularly low range". He said she had been traumatised by injuring the baby and became depressed and undernourished as a result.

He added that his client was caught in a volatile situation and acted impulsively as it was difficult for her to think through the consequences of her actions.

Judge Nolan commented that it was "fortunate for everybody that the bulk of the pellets went somewhere else". "If the middle [of the pellet spray] had hit, you wouldn't be in this court," he added.

The judge accepted Dan Donovan produced the shotgun out of fear during an "overwrought" situation.

He said Charlene Donovan had intellectual difficulties, but he was satisfied she knew the consequences of her actions.


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