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Shotgun seized by gardaí in 2009 finds its way back into criminal hands

A criminal investigation is under way into how the firearm, which should have been in the Garda evidence system, had to be seized again

A pump-action shotgun seized by the Garda, and which should have been in secure storage as evidence, got back into the hands of people involved in serious organised crime. It was seized for a second time during another, separate, Garda operation targeting feuding criminal gangs.

It was only when the gun was seized for the second time that gardaí realised it was the same pump-action shotgun previously found during searches. A criminal investigation is now under way into how the gun found its way back into circulation in the criminal fraternity.

The Irish Times has learned the matter has caused such concern within senior Garda management that Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has sent a report to Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and the Policing Authority alerting them to it.

In reply to queries, Garda Headquarters confirmed the gun was seized, for the second time, in the last 12 months “as part of an operation into a feud between two criminal gangs”.


“Two days later, following examination of the firearms, the senior investigating officer found that one of the firearms, a pump-action shotgun, had previously been seized by gardaí in 2009. Records showed that it was supposed to be still in possession of gardaí in the east of the country.”

It said a criminal investigation began, and was still ongoing, “into how the firearm left the control of An Garda Síochána and came into the possession” of people suspected of involved in feuding. There had been “significant recent public comment” of late around the “proper control and recording” of evidential items in the Garda’s possession, the Garda reply said.

As a result, Mr Harris has sent a report on the matter to Ms McEntee and the Policing Authority under Section 41 of the Garda Síochána Act. This provides for the commissioner of the day to provide information to the minister or authority about “significant developments that might reasonably be expected to affect adversely public confidence” in the Garda.

It is the second Section 41 report in recent weeks Mr Harris has sent to Ms McEntee and the authority after items were taken from the Garda’s property and exhibits management system (PEMS). One was also sent on the case of the Garda member being suspended and investigated over a bike being taken from the PEMS system, without advance permission, and then given to a local man in the midlands.

The Irish Times understands the pump-action shotgun at the centre of the more recent case was initially legally held by a firearms dealer. However, it was stolen during a burglary in 2004. Some five years later it was seized during a Garda operation against organised crime suspects in the Leinster area.

When it was seized, the gun underwent ballistics testing and was then secured in the Garda’s PEMS system, which is used to securely store evidence and property seized by the Garda. This includes cash, guns and drugs from organised crime gangs as well as stolen or unclaimed property.

The gun should have remained in the Garda secure evidence stores as its theft in 2004, and its seizure in 2009, remained under investigation. However, it was seized again less than a year ago as part of an operation targeting other criminal groups who had somehow come into possession of it.

The seizure of the gun in 2009 and again in recent months are unrelated incidents, involving two different groups of suspects in different parts of the country.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times