Man who admitted gun possession ‘took orders from criminals abroad’

Special Criminal Court hears Declan Brady admitted having 15 guns and over 1,300 bullets

Declan Brady (53), with an address at The Park, Wolstan Abbey, Celbridge, Co Kildare, pleaded guilty in February to possessing nine revolvers, four semi-automatic pistols, a sub-machine gun, an assault rifle and 1,355 rounds of ammunition. Photograph: Collins Courts.

Declan Brady (53), with an address at The Park, Wolstan Abbey, Celbridge, Co Kildare, pleaded guilty in February to possessing nine revolvers, four semi-automatic pistols, a sub-machine gun, an assault rifle and 1,355 rounds of ammunition. Photograph: Collins Courts.

 

A Kildare man who pleaded guilty to possessing 15 guns and 1,355 rounds of ammunition received his instructions from senior criminals based abroad, a court has heard.

The non-jury Special Criminal Court heard during a sentence hearing that gardaí recovered four loaded revolvers which were “ready for imminent use”.

Declan Brady (53), with an address at The Park, Wolstan Abbey, Celbridge, Co Kildare, pleaded guilty in February to possessing nine revolvers, four semi-automatic pistols, a sub-machine gun, an assault rifle and 1,355 rounds of ammunition in suspicious circumstances at Unit 52, Block 503, Grants Drive, Greenogue Business Park, Rathcoole, Co Dublin on January 24th, 2017.

Prosecuting counsel Fiona Murphy SC told the three-judge court a “nolle prosequi” could be entered on any remaining charges, which means the State will not be proceeding with these counts.

Ms Murphy told the court that Jonathan Harding (45) of McNeill Court, Sallins, Co Kildare, and James Walsh (33), with an address at Neilstown Drive, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 had both pleaded guilty at the Special Criminal Court to the same counts.

In January 2018, Harding was sentenced to 10 years in prison with one year suspended and Walsh was sentenced to nine years in prison with one year suspended, she said.

At Monday’s sentence hearing, Detective Inspector Noel Browne, of the National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, summarised the facts of the case.

He told Ms Murphy that after receiving information on January 23rd, 2017, gardaí put in place a surveillance operation focusing on certain individuals and a warehouse at Greenogue Business Park, Grants Drive, Rathcoole, Co Dublin on January 24th, 2017.

Legitimate company

Det Insp Browne said Brady and Jonathan Harding’s movements were monitored that morning and they were arrested at 11.17am. Brady had three mobile phones on him and was brought to Clondalkin Garda station.

Gardaí had an emergency warrant when they entered the unit at Greenogue at 11.30am and found James Walsh in the reception area of the premises.

The court heard the unit was purporting to be the premises of a logistics company.

“The company involved are a legitimate UK transport company and they have no premises in Ireland,” said Det Insp Browne , adding that it had been set up to give the impression that some legitimate transport work was going on and two forklifts were found in the unit.

Det Insp Browne said that in the upstairs loft area, a number of loaded firearms were laid out on cardboard sheeting on the floor. The witness agreed that four of the revolvers were loaded and ready for “imminent use”.

Walsh was then arrested and gardaí awaited the arrival of a ballistics expert, said the witness.

Gardaí also found more guns and ammunition, including a submachine gun, in two cardboard boxes. More boxes of ammunition were found on the ground.

Two electronic tracking devices, a radio and a glove were found on a nearby shelving unit. A silencer for a firearm was also found under the sink in the kitchen.

In summary, the witness agreed with Ms Murphy that there were nine revolvers, four semi-automatic pistols, a sub-machine gun, an assault rifle, two silencers and 10 spare magazines.

A small number of other rounds of ammunition were found in a secret compartment in a Ford Focus van.

Nothing of evidential value from the investigation could be linked to Brady, the court heard.

Det Insp Browne said Brady has seven previous convictions, all for road traffic offences.

Subservient

The witness said gardaí believed that Brady had received his instructions from other senior figures based abroad and his task was to ensure “matters ran smoothly”.

The operation ran from January 2016 until its detection in January 2017 and other people subservient to Brady had been arrested, he added.

Under cross-examination, Michael O’Higgins SC put it to Det Insp Browne that it had been suggested that Brady had taken instructions from people abroad and these were “serious individuals” who one would not go against lightly.

“I accept that,” replied the witness.

Det Insp Browne agreed with Mr O’Higgins that although there was strong circumstantial evidence tying his client to the premises, a trial would have taken a number of weeks so a guilty plea was of some benefit.

The witness said he was satisfied that Brady was not an “end user”.

Ms Murphy said the DPP’s position is that the case is at the higher end of the scale in terms of sentencing, because of the nature of the firearms and the fact that there was no possible innocent use. Another reason was the volume of firearms, she said, and four of the five revolvers were primed and ready for use.

Unloaded firearms were present at the scene but in every respect they were in close proximity to the ammunition, she submitted.

In his submissions, Mr O’Higgins said in effect Brady was entitled to be treated with no previous convictions.

He had grown up in Drimnagh and his father was a haulier with a very significant drink problem. He informed the court that alcohol is a feature in his client’s family.

Brady left school at 14 years of age and worked for his father. In later life, he got his own truck licence and drove for many years, explained Mr O’Higgins.

The defendant is separated from his wife but is now in a settled relationship with a Hungarian woman and they have a two-year-old daughter together who has a rare genetic disorder, said the lawyer.

Brady currently works in the prison bakery and has completed a number of courses, using his time well in prison, said the barrister.

Mr O’Higgins asked the court to take into account the fact that his client is facing a significant custodial sentence at 53 years of age and this is an “unenviable position” to be in.

Cog in the machine

In mitigating factors, Mr O’Higgins asked the court to consider his client’s guilty plea which had come a bit later than his two co-accused. Some people take longer to reconcile themselves to a situation, he submitted.

While Brady was higher up the line than his two co-accused, ultimately the person calling the shots was far more senior than him, the defence counsel told the court.

Another factor in mitigation, he said was the fact his client had not come to the attention of gardaí until “well into his adult life” and he has a good prospect of rehabilitating himself.

However, Mr O’Higgins said his client had a “well-defined role” in the event and certain things cannot operate without “certain cogs turning the machine”.

Counsel asked the court to find a sentence “close” to those handed down to his two co-accused but which also reflected the fairness and gravity of the situation.

Mr Justice Paul Coffey, presiding, with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge David McHugh, remanded Brady in custody until July 15th, when he will be sentenced.