A 23-year-old man who hid a shotgun, ammunition and balaclavas used by an armed robbery gang in west Donegal in 2009 was given 240 hour community service at Letterkenny Circuit Court this week.
A garda search revealed father of one, Maurice Boyle of Dore, Bunbeg, had a twelve gauge sawn off shotgun and live ammunition stored in the attic of his house.
He also had balaclavas stored in a panel behind a bathroom.
Garda Paul Gallagher told the court that acting on information, Sergeant Michael Carroll had attained a search warrant for Boyle’s house which was conducted by gardai on Sunday, March 1st, 2009 at 1.45pm.
In the cross space of his attic they located a twelve gauge double barrel breach loading shotgun, five spent cartridge case and three live rounds.
The Russian weapon was rusted and in poor condition and had to be restored for a ballistics test to be conducted by gardai.
In the bathroom, behind a panel, they found three balaclavas. A large knife was also recovered and three pairs of black gloves were discovered in a vehicle.
Two co-accused, Paul McEleney and Tadhg McKelvey both pleaded guilty to their part in an armed robbery that took place in the Cope, Annagry on February 26th, 2009 and have been dealt with by the courts.
The weapon recovered was the one used in the robbery, Garda Gallagher stated.
Boyle was interviewed by gardai eleven times, but only answered questions on one occasion saying he agreed to hold the weapon for the co-accused.
Judge John O’Hagan asked if it was only after the robbery Boyle had possession of the weapon. Garda Gallagher replied: “That wouldn’t be my understanding”.
Boyle, a former security worker, who is now unemployed, has three previous convictions for road traffic offences.
Defence Counsel, David Goldberg SC, said his client was in a relationship with the sister of co-accused, Paul McEleney, and had been asked by him and McKelvey to store the weapon for them, which he did.
“Without thinking the matter through he felt it appropriate to assist the young men,” he stated.
He said there was an element of “bravado” by his client in becoming involved in the crimes.
Boyle addressed the court apologising for his actions saying he embarrassed both himself and his family. He added he now had a job “lined up” in the UK and was planning to relocate there with his partner and child.
Judge O’Hagan said the robbery left the Cope staff “badly frightened” and that he had been criticised by the public for what they saw as lenient sentencing for the first two defendants.
He said he understood the gardai had suspicions over Boyle’s involvement, but he could only deal with the evidence before him. Referring to the possession of the weapon, he stated: “I have little doubt he knew what he was up to. It wasn’t out of the goodness of his heart.”
He sentenced him to five years in prison, but substituted it with 240 hours community service. For possessing the ammunition he sentenced him to 240 hours community service to run concurrently.