An Enniscorthy man has been found guilty by a jury at Wexford Circuit Court of a firearm charge along with a charge of demanding money from a third party.
Kevin Ryan, of 3 Vinegar Hill Villas, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, had pleaded not guilty before Judge Barry Hickson at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court to being in charge of a realistic firearm in the car park of the Maldron Hotel, Wexford, on April 23, 2014. He also pleaded not guilty to making unwarranted demands for €1210 and €10,000 by production of an imitation firearm and pointing it at a Mr. Brian Parle.
After deliberating for two hours, the jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict on both charges.
In evidence, Mr Brian Parle told the court that used to own a transport company but went out of business in 2010. He accrued debts in the process, including a debt to the Revenue Commissioners, for which he spent some time in jail.
In April 2013 Mr Parle received a call from the defendant claiming to be a debt collector and that the witness owed money to a Pat Nolan in Enniscorthy.
Mr Parle arranged to meet the caller, who he now knew to be the defendant Mr Kevin Ryan, in the car park of the Maldron Hotel in Wexford. The amount of money involved was €1210,
Mr Parle said the defendant arrived at the hotel driving a blue jeep and had two passengers with him.
'I did not know the man so I looked for identification. I was not going to hand over money without knowing the person. We talked for a few minutes. I informed him that I had no money on me. I told him I had lost my business while I also owed money to the Revenue commissioners for which I spent some time in jail. I was told that €750 would settle the account,' said Mr Parle.
At this stage, Mr Ryan told Mr Parle that he had something in his jeep that would change his mind
'I was somewhat frightened as I was thinking of my wife and two children. He told me at the time to have €500 the following week.'
Mr. Parle added: 'The defendant got into the jeep. The passenger in the man's jeep leaned backwards, while the defendant leaned forward, pointing a gun at me. I could not see what type of gun it was. I was quite shocked.'
Mr. Parle told prosecuting counsel Sinead Gleeson that he later rang gardai and made a statement to Det Sgt Michael Troy.
Replying to Defence Counsel Conor O'Doherty the witness agreed that he had many outstanding debts. He denied a suggestion from Mr. O'Doherty that the defendant got into his jeep and drove away and did not threaten him.
Mr. O'Doherty said the defendant disputed his version of events. When Mr. O'Doherty suggested that no gun was produced the witness said there was a gun, adding, 'I saw the gun'.
Det Sgt Michael Troy told the court that the defendant needed to be restrained by the Regional Support Unit when arrested in the Spring Valley area of Enniscorthy.
Gardai had also obtained a search warrant for the defendant's house at 3 Vinegar Hill Villas. An imitation firearm was subsequently found in the kitchen of the house while what appeared to be a handgun was found under the seat of the defendant's car.
Det Garda Shane Curran of the Ballistic Section, Garda Technical Bureau, Dublin, told the court that on examination of the firearm it could be considered a firearm under Irish legislation. Such items could be considered an imitation firearm, he added. It had the shape, and look of a genuine steel firearm, black in colour. It would be consistent with many firearms on which it was modelled.
Kevin Ryan told the court that when he went to the Maldron Hotel he was accompanied by a Jason Kavanagh.
He said he discussed Pat Nolan's invoice with Mr Parle, as well as an invoice from Druhan Brothers. He told Prosecuting Counsel, Ms Gleeson that he was only messing when he said he was carrying something in the vehicle with him. He denied threatening Mr. Parle.
When cross-examined by Ms Gleeson he said it was a mobile phone he had in his hand. He said the imitation firearms belonged to his nephews who played with them.
After an absence of some two hours the jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict on both counts. Defence Counsel, Mr. O'Doherty asked for a remand on continuing bail for sentencing to the next session. Ms Gleeson said there was no objection.
Judge Hickson remanded the defendant on continuing bail to the April session for sentencing.