A father of three who walked into his local pub while carrying a decommissioned pump action shotgun has been given a three and half year suspended sentence.
Mark Clarke (50) later told gardaí that he had no recollection of the evening because he had just drank a bottle of whiskey. He had a small row with his wife and was disgruntled with his siblings over the fact that he felt he had been left being the sole carer for his elderly mother.
Detective Garda Eamonn McFadden told Fionnuala O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting, that while there were a number of customers in Martin’s Bar in Rush, Co Dublin that evening, nobody felt threatened or imitated by Clarke but rather thought he was “acting strangely”, “acting the hard man” and “didn’t seem right in the head”.
Det Gda McFadden said that Clarke had a license for the gun up until 2010. When the license expired he handed it in and it was professionally decommissioned by removing the firing pin in it and rendering it incapable of being discharged.
Clarke, of Kenure Park, Rush, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of the firearm, 13 shotgun cartridges and blank shotgun cartridges at his home and in Martin’s Bar on February 15, 2019. He has a small number of convictions for minor offences including road traffic offences.
Judge Pauline Codd acknowledged that nobody was threatened that day and were instead “uneasy rather than frightened and that unease was caused by the accused who was acting strangely”.
She acknowledged that Clarke’s behaviour “was out of character”. She noted that there were some family pressures, that are still ongoing, and he was finding this situation stressful.
Judge Codd said, however, this was “an entirely inappropriate way to deal with this” after noting that many people find themselves in similarly stressful situations.
The judge said a psychological report before the court concluded that Clarke expressed remorse and embarrassment and she accepted that he had “generally lived a very pro-social life”.
She sentenced him to three and half years in prison, which she suspended in full on strict conditions, including that he engage with the Probation Service for 12 months to “ensure there is no issue with alcohol”.
Feargal Kavanagh SC, defending said his client was a father of three adult children and had worked as a bus driver for most of his life. He had given up his job to care for his elderly mother but his carer’s allowance had been delayed and he was under financial pressure.
“He was disgruntled with his siblings for not stepping up to the mark and there was an extreme amount of distress within the family over this. He also had a small row with his wife. It all became too much for him and he downed the entire bottle of whiskey,” Mr Kavanagh said.
Counsel asked the judge to accept that it was not the normal type of firearm case to come before the court adding that “it was not pre-meditated and there was no criminal intent to rob or assault anyone”.