A Donegal man who organised an attack on a family home in which a nail fired from a nail gun narrowly missed a three-year-old child has been jailed for three and a half years.
Marcus Spratt (35) of Gortnacorrib, Letterkenny had pleaded guilty at Letterkenny Circuit Criminal Court to possession of an offensive weapon, criminal damage and making threats to kill at the home at 9 Glencar Park, Letterkenny on November 6th, 2006.
The child was sleeping in his home when a gang of men attacked it at around 4am, smashing windows by firing nails at the house.
The attack was on the home of Donal Coyle and his partner Catherine McClelland.
The gang from Derry were sent by Spratt, who was the former boyfriend of Ms McClelland’s sister, due to a row with Mr Coyle.
Nails were lodged in the front door and were found scattered around the living room, hall and landing.
“As powerful as any firearm”
Judge John Aylmer today jailed Spratt after hearing the evidence on Tuesday.
The judge said the nail gun seems to have been just as powerful as any firearm and numerous nails were found inside the home, and one narrowly missed the head of the child.
The judge said it was “a dangerous and violent attack carried out on the home of Mr Coyle.
“It was somewhat of a miracle that neither Mr Coyle, his partner or his three-year-old son were injured,” he said.
He said the mitigating circumstances were limited. Spratt had absconded in 2012 and moved to London.
An offer of €2,000 in compensation was made by Spratt.
Judge Aylmer sentenced Spratt to three and a half years in prison on the possession of an offensive weapon and threat to kill charges. Spratt received a two-year sentence for the criminal damage charge, with all sentences to run concurrently.
The court had previously heard that the attack was accompanied by shouting which woke the child. He came onto the landing and a nail missed his head by inches, his father told investigating gardaí.
Garda Patrick Geraghty arrived at the scene to find a considerable amount of damage had been done to the house.
Six windows had been broken including the sitting room window, windows in an extension, and four windows on the front door.
Around €600 of damage was caused to the house.
Garda Geraghty said Mr Coyle was very agitated. He said four to five males arrived at his home. He said he believed they were acting on behalf of Marcus Spratt who had been in a relationship with his girlfriend’s sister.
In their investigation gardaí found a van belonging to Spratt’s father that he had been using at a rented accommodation of Spratt’s at Illistrin. The van had a punctured wheel and damaged headlights.
There were containers for power equipment and a nail gun. Nails identical to the ones found at the house were found in the van, Garda Geraghty said.
Mr Coyle told gardaí that when Spratt came to the house he made a number of threats to kill him and his brother. Further threats to kill him were made in phone calls.
Mr Coyle said after the windows were broken the nail gun was placed through the broken window and door and fired off indiscriminately.
Nails landed in the hall and landing. One lodged in a coat hanging in the hall and one lodged in a dado rail.
Spratt was arrested on November 10th.
In Garda interviews, he said he had an altercation with Mr Coyle earlier that night when he said Mr Coyle damaged his vehicle. In retaliation, he organised a number of men to come from Derry “to teach Mr Coyle and his brother a lesson”.
He said he was not present at the commission of the offence. He gave the name of one of the men from Derry to gardaí but he could not be located.
Spratt said he did not want to make a complaint about the damage to his van.
The court heard that he had previous convictions for road traffic offences, public order offences, criminal damage, assault, and dangerous driving. He also had convictions in the UK including drink driving, no insurance and one count of battery.
Spratt told gardaí that if he had known there was a child in the house he would not have done it. He said the gang “went overboard”.
A European arrest warrant was executed in London to bring Spratt before the court.
Ivan Toner (BL) for Spratt said the two sides had shaken hands in 2009. Garda Geraghty later told the court that Mr Coyle was adamant that the handshake had never taken place.
Spratt absconded in 2012 and did not show up for sentencing previously and went to London.
Mr Toner said he was building a house in Donegal next to his father’s house and that he has two children in Ireland who he supports financially.
At the time of the incident, Spratt’s mother had cancer and passed away a year later.
Mr Toner said Spratt deeply regretted what happened on the night in question.
“Essentially he went ballistic on the night in question. Unfortunately, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He took the most extreme measures to right what he saw was a wrong.
“He was quite horrified when he realised there may have been a young child in the house on the night in question.”
In a victim impact statement, Mr Coyle said Spratt had not shown any remorse for his actions.
Mr Toner said Spratt has moved on and has set up his own construction company in London.
He said Spratt had made a number of huge mistakes in his life but he was trying to make amends for that. He said he has transformed his life since 2012.