Special Criminal Court
A Kilkenny man linked through DNA evidence to a revolver found inside a blood-stained plastic bag at a Dublin business park has been jailed for three years by the Special Criminal Court.
Sean Ruth (29), with an address at Blacktrench, Rathangan, Co Kildare pleaded guilty on January 22 to possession of a .38 Special Calibre "Rossi" revolver and a 9mm calibre round of ammunition at a place unknown within the State between January 1, 2016 and January 24, 2017, both dates inclusive.
These offences are contrary to Section 2 of the Firearms Act, 1925 as amended by Section 27 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.
The maximum prison sentence in respect of each count is seven years in prison.
Passing sentence today, presiding judge Mr Justice Paul Coffey said that it was accepted by the prosecution that the charges which Ruth had pleaded guilty to were "unconnected" to the firearms which had been recovered from Greenogue Business Park.
A "lethal arsenal" of weapons which included four loaded guns and over a thousand rounds of ammunition was recovered at a unit in Greenogue Business Park, Rathcoole, Co Dublin on January 24, 2017.
The judge said it was not in dispute that the firearm and ammunition linked to Ruth were incompatible and there was no evidence to suggest that they were ever in use.
Having regard to the gravity of the offence, the judge said the court placed it at the upper end of the middle range. The aggravating factors in the case included the absence of any evidence that the firearm and ammunition were required for a lawful purpose as well as Ruth’s 29 previous convictions.
However, the offending was “extenuated” by the fact that there was no evidence that the firearm and ammunition had been used, said Mr Justice Coffey.
The headline sentence in the case was four and a half years imprisonment.
Mr Justice Coffey said that Ruth comes from a “good, law-abiding family” but he was not “law-abiding” and had not been since his life was marked by a “downward spiral of criminal behaviour” in 2010.
The sole mitigating factor was the defendant's guilty plea which had come “relatively late”, said the judge. “It was a plea to a lesser charge than those on the original indictment and it was accepted by the prosecution that it was of real value,” he explained.
The headline sentence was reduced from four and a half years to three and a half years because of this guilty plea, said the judge, adding that both sentences are to run concurrently.
In conclusion, Mr Justice Coffey said that the three judges had carefully read the testimonials which were handed into the court as well as a letter from the defendant’s parents which outlined their “clear and genuine belief” that their son had the capacity to rehabilitate himself.
Mr Justice Coffey said the non-jury court would suspend the final six months on condition that Ruth enter a "peace bond".
Sentencing the defendant today, Mr Justice Coffey, sitting with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge David McHugh, sentenced Ruth to three and a half years imprisonment with the final six months suspended, backdated to May 17, 2017 when he went into custody.
Jonathan Harding (45) of McNeill Court, Sallins, Co Kildare, and James Walsh (33), with an address at Neilstown Drive, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 both previously pleaded guilty at the Special Criminal Court to the possession of nine revolvers, four pistols, a sub-machine gun, an assault rifle and various ammunition magazines at the unit in Greenogue Business Park on January 24, 2017.
In January 2018, Harding was sentenced to ten years in prison with one year suspended and Walsh was sentenced to nine years in prison with one year suspended.
At last month’s sentence hearing on January 24, Detective Inspector Noel Browne, of the National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, summarised the facts of the case.
Detective Insp Browne told prosecuting counsel Paul Burns SC that after receiving confidential information, gardai put a surveillance operation in place and raided a warehouse at Greenogue Business Park, Grants Drive, Rathcoole, Co Dublin on January 24, 2017.
Ruth was originally from Kilkenny but had been living in Kildare, the court heard.
Det Insp Browne said five firearms were found during the search and they were laid out on cardboard boxes in the upstairs loft area of the warehouse. None of these firearms were connected to the defendant, he added.
Other firearms were found on two other cardboard boxes nearby, which were labelled “box 1” and “box 2”. Two assault rifles were on “box 2” as well as a blood-stained bag which contained a Rossi revolver, a Glock automatic pistol and various calibre ammunition.
The items were sent to Forensic Science Ireland and swabbed for DNA purposes.
The witness said a blood-stained “Spar plastic bag” containing a disposable glove was found on top of a timber box downstairs in the warehouse. Inside the finger of this glove was a 9mm calibre round of ammunition which was not suitable for the revolver.
A radio transmitter was found on the mezzanine level of the unit and it had Ruth’s DNA.
The witness said a Ford Focus car was also on the premises and there was blood-staining inside the passenger door which matched the defendant’s DNA.
Ruth was arrested by gardai at the Amber Springs Hotel on May 7, 2017 and he was detained at Clondlakin Garda Station where he was photographed, fingerprinted and DNA buccal swabs were taken from him.
Det Insp Browne said little evidence was provided during Ruth's interviews but he told gardai that he had an accident when he was in the Ford Focus car which had caused the blood. However, the defendant said he was not aware of the car being at Greenogue Business Park.
The DNA profile generated from Ruth's buccal swabs matched the DNA recovered from the revolver as well as the two plastic bags. Ruth’s DNA profile also matched the profile generated from the glove, the radio and the blood-staining inside the Ford Focus.
Under cross-examination, Det Insp Browne agreed with Dominic McGinn SC, defending, that gardai were running a surveillance operation which had "specific targets" but his client was not one of these.
The witness accepted that Ruth was not sighted at the premises during the search and agreed that he was in the gym at the time of the raid.
The detective further accepted that blood cannot be dated and Ruth’s guilty plea was of value to the investigation.
Mr McGinn asked the court to take into account that his client was from a “good, law-abiding family” and they had been very supportive of him through this process.
In mitigating factors, Mr McGinn asked the court to consider that the revolver was loaded but not compatible with the ammunition in it.
The barrister said Ruth was only linked through the blood and not tied to the crime through responsibility.
Mr McGinn asked the judges to consider in mitigation his client’s early guilty plea which was of value to the court.
Another factor in mitigation, he said was a letter from the defendant’s parents who had attempted to “paint the full picture” of their son as a hard-working individual but with a restless spirit. According to his parents this "restless spirit" had led him down a road in his adolescents to early twenties that he should not have gone down.
“This downward trend is not of his character and the abrupt stop to his sequence of offending makes them optimistic for his future,” indicated Mr McGinn.
In his submissions, Mr McGinn said that his client had completed a number of courses since he went into custody in May 2017. He asked the court to fix the offence in terms of its seriousness and to weigh up the mitigating factors.
Counsel submitted to the court that his client was not in “immediate possession” of the gun when it was found on January 24 and the weapon was not capable of being used as it was not loaded. “The only inference the court can draw is that Mr Ruth has some amount of authority and control over the firearm,” said the lawyer.
The prosecution said each of the counts were “separate items” found at the premises which were not directly related to each other.