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€1,400 gold watch from shop raid was sold for €150

THREE men have been sentenced at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for handling almost €100,000 worth of stolen jewellery that had been taken four days earlier in a raid at a Belfast jewellers.

Francis Taggart (21) of Albert Street, Belfast, pleaded guilty to possession of a stolen gold pocket watch, while Liam O'Neill (57) of Cross Guns Quay, Phibsboro, Dublin and Gavin Hughes (28) of Springfield Park, Belfast, both pleaded guilty to handling stolen jewellery at Grattan Crescent, Inchicore on July 11, 2011.

The men were stopped in a blue Rover car by gardai during a surveillance operation mounted following a tip-off that there would be an attempt to sell jewellery in the Dublin area.

O'Neill and another man had earlier tried to sell the items to a jeweller in Palmerstown, but the man decided not to buy them. The prospective buyer returned the jewellery to O'Neill after meeting him, Taggart, Hughes and the other man in a pub car park.

Gardai stopped the car minutes later in Inchicore. The jewellery was found in a shopping bag and a laptop bag in the car and a gold pocket watch was found on Taggart.

Judge Martin Nolan sentenced O'Neill and Hughes to two years after he commented that a substantial amount of jewellery had been taken.

He sentenced Taggart to two-and-a-half years, which he suspended in full.

Judge Nolan told Luigi Rea, defending Taggart, that his client would have received the same sentence as the other two men, but the DPP was satisfied to accept his plea to the lesser charge of possession.

Detective Garda Michael Doherty told Fiona McGowan, prosecuting, that Taggart told gardai he had paid €150 for the watch, which he was intending to give to his girlfriend as a present. It was later valued at €1,400.

O'Neill said he had received a call earlier that day asking if he knew any where some jewellery could be sold and he indicated, "I may know someone who knows someone".

The court heard that Taggart has six previous convictions for minor offences in the North, while Hughes has three, also for minor offences in the North. O'Neill has none.

Garda Doherty agreed with Seamus Clarke, defending, that it was a "one-off opportunistic situation" for O'Neill who counsel said "unfortunately engaged in this act". O'Neill has three grown children from his first marriage and an eight-year-old with his current partner.

Garda Doherty agreed with Elizabeth Davey, defending Hughes, that her client was not involved in any negotiating to sell the jewellery nor did gardai find any jewellery on him when the car was searched.