A 39 year old man who was given a three year suspended sentence, following the discovery of two sawn-off shotguns, ammunition and a smoke grenade, in his home last week avoided having the sentence activated at Dundalk Circuit Court.
The case was re-entered after Thomas David Hearty of Hughes’ Park, Dundalk, appeared in the district court on a public order offence, while he was under a bond to be of good behaviour.
The original hearing in the Circuit Court was told the accused was too afraid to tell gardai who he was minding the items for, and was under duress at the time due to a drug debt he owed in relation to his heroin addiction.
The sentencing hearing in October 2011 was told that gardai searched the defendant’s home on the 10th of April 2010 and recovered two 12 gauge breech-loading sawn-off shotguns, along with seven shotgun cartridges and a smoke grenade in the accused’s bedroom.
The court was told the defendant owed a drug debt and he was forced to mind the items for a particular individual, who he was not prepared to name to gardai, as he was in fear of his life.
The investigating garda said the accused was a full time carer for his uncle, who had no knowledge of the firearms in his home and while he had associated with known criminals at the time, he no longer did.
The Defence barrister said at the time that his client had sought a credit union loan to pay off the debt, but was told to hold onto the weapons instead.
He added the accused - who had successfully dealt with his addiction, was vulnerable to being exploited and four days after his arrest, his car was burnt out.
Judge Michael O’Shea in imposing a three year suspended sentence said given the exceptional circumstances society would not be best served by imposing the maximum sentence of five years.
Last Wednesday, he was told the case had been re-entered after the accused was found highly intoxicated on Market Street on the fourth of April this year, where members of the public had called an ambulance fearing he had badly injured himself in a fall.
The Defence barrister said his client was taken into custody for his own safety and his uncle is still dependent on him. He added the accused has since re-joined AA.
Judge O’Shea said he would make no order, as he was satisfied the accused has tried to get back on the straight and narrow. The public order charge was adjourned to Dundalk district court this Wednesday