A man who allowed two handguns to be hidden inside a Henry Hoover in his van at the height of Dublin gangland activity has been given a suspended four year sentence.
Stephen O’Connor (45) was approached by a criminal figure while he was “incredibly vulnerable” and agreed to hold onto the firearms in order to “get them off his back”, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.
O’Connor, of Carndonagh Lawns, Donaghmede, pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of firearms at his address on September 7, 2019. The offence carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. O’Connor has no previous convictions.
Detective Garda Jonathan Griffin told Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, that a search warrant was obtained for O’Connor’s home. Nothing was found inside the house, although a set of keys for a van parked behind the house were seized from O’Connor.
Det Gda Griffin said a second search warrant was obtained for the van and gardaí discovered a Henry Hoover within. Hidden inside this were two semi-automatic pistols with 15 rounds of ammunition.
The handguns were both found to be in working order and ready to use.
Det Gda Griffin agreed with Fiona Murphy SC, defending, that her client seems to have serious mental health issues. He agreed that no DNA was found on the guns.
Ms Murphy said two of her client’s brothers died by suicide when he was in his late teens. She said O’Connor had twice attempted suicide in the months leading up to his agreeing to hold the guns.
Counsel said her client was “incredibly vulnerable” when he was repeatedly approached by the acquaintance and he agreed to hold the guns in order to “get them off his back”. She said her client did not know what the items were.
Sentencing O’Connor this week, Judge Elma Sheahan noted that the guns were found “at a time of significant gangland activity in Dublin city”.
“The accused was friendly with a person of this ilk,” she said. The judge noted that this “criminal figure” was aware of O’Connor’s vulnerabilities. She accepted that O’Connor was “used and taken advantage of by this acquaintance or so-called friend”.
The judge noted that if the court were to be seen as being lenient to accused people who were vulnerable, “then this legislation has failed”.
However she said the court was struck with the particulars of O’Connor’s background, including his mental health difficulties, the fact he had maintained employment and relationships notwithstanding this and the fact he has no previous convictions.
She handed down a four-year sentence but suspended it on a number of strict conditions for a period of four years.
She ordered O’Connor to cut all ties with people with criminal conditions.